B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office is targeting more than $5-million in cash and property tied to a man at the heart of a massive money-laundering investigation that began unravelling late last year.
The CFO, which does not need a criminal conviction or even charges to pursue a file, recently filed a notice of claim in B.C. Supreme Court seeking $4.86-million in cash and various other items, as well as a $764,000 condo in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, that it says are owned by Paul King Jin, the man authorities alleged ran a large underground gambling ring that took advantage of the lax money-laundering controls at Lower Mainland casinos.
The cash, a 2011 Porsche 911 and $45,000 worth of chips from two local casinos were seized by police from Mr. Jin’s apartment and a Richmond massage parlour he owned in October, 2015. The raids were connected to Silver International, a local currency exchange that police allege was a front for a money-laundering operation that washed $220-million a year for violent local drug dealers, wealthy gamblers from China and clients in Mexico and Colombia. The CFO launched a civil claim in December against the couple who owned that business after the criminal case against them collapsed, shocking the country and leading B.C.'s Attorney-General to launch a review of the investigation, named E-Pirate.
The allegations in the civil claim against Mr. Jin have not been proven, and he has not yet filed a response to the CFO’s original notice, dated March 15. Mr. Jin, the claim states, was arrested in February, 2016, for possession of the proceeds of crime, “keeping a gaming house and betting, pool selling and bookmaking,” but criminal charges were never laid.
The suit also names Mr. Jin’s wife, Xiaoqi Wei, his niece Yuanyuan Jia, his father, Gong Ping Jia, and his mother, Hua Wang. It also names Ming Kang Ye, to whom the Porsche was registered in order to obscure Mr. Jin as the “true owner,” according to the suit.
Citing police evidence from E-Pirate, the lawsuit claims Mr. Jin was running an underground gambling and money-laundering business whose net profit over the 4½ months the RCMP were surveilling Silver International was more than $32-million. In the five years prior to the E-Pirate raids, Mr. Jin and Ms. Wei reported an average combined annual income of less than $30,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency, the claim states.
A Globe and Mail investigation last year found the couple were also private lenders that had staked claims against 28 Vancouver-area properties since 2012, for loans and mortgages totalling $16.6-million.
The lawsuit also alleges Mr. Jin and his associates threatened physical violence or used violence to collect from his debtors. The claim highlights one alleged incident in February, 2013, in which one of Mr. Jin’s employees tried to kidnap the child of a debtor, visiting a Vancouver school with photocopies of their ID but failing to get the child released. That employee was arrested by Vancouver police that day while following a car carrying the child, the claim states.
The Globe has reported extensively on the Civil Forfeiture Office, which was established as a way to fight organized crime but has come to have a far broader reach. The CFO has faced heavy criticism over the past decade for giving the province the power to seize assets from people without charging them criminally.
It is fighting the Hells Angels in B.C. Supreme Court over three clubhouses in Vancouver, Kelowna and Nanaimo. The CFO is arguing the properties should be forfeited because they are likely being used to plan crimes, while the Hells Angels are arguing the current laws are unconstitutional.
The couple accused of laundering millions through Silver International say the CFO’s attempt to seize their assets should be tossed because their Charter rights were violated by the RCMP in the criminal investigation that collapsed in court last year.
Earlier this month, the provincial government announced it is planning on bolstering the powers of the CFO to help it target criminals buying up assets after making money from organized crime and the underground fentanyl trade.
The agency has had $44-million worth of assets forfeited since 2014 after being referred almost 4,500 files by law enforcement, a CFO spokesperson said this month.