The couple accused of running a massive money-laundering business says the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office’s attempt to seize assets worth millions should be tossed because their Charter rights were violated by the RCMP in the criminal investigation that collapsed in court late last year.
Caixuan Qin and her partner Jian Ju Zhu, assert that their constitutional rights to life, liberty and security of person as well as their rights not to be subjected to unreasonable search or seizure and arbitrary detention were violated by Mounties in raids of their home and the foreign-exchange business Silver International and Style Travel agency in Richmond, B.C.
In separate three-page responses filed in B.C. Supreme Court last Friday, the pair note they are no longer charged with any criminal offence in relation to the matters described in the agency’s initial notice of civil claim and they deny any legal liability.
“The defendants deny the existence of any legal basis for the Plaintiff’s claim,” reads the statement from Ms. Qin, Silver International and Style Travel.
Mr. Zhu and Ms. Qin are both seeking to have the civil claim dismissed with costs.
The civil forfeiture agency, which does not need a criminal conviction or even charges to pursue a file, is targeting the two-storey house owned by Ms. Qin and the cash seized by the RCMP from the two Richmond businesses. Police allege the pair, through their businesses, were laundering $220-million a year for a host of violent local drug dealers, as well as wealthy gamblers from China and clients in Mexico and Colombia.
The office is also seeking thousands of dollars in East Asian and Latin American currencies, $17,800 in chips from the River Rock Casino in Richmond, almost $10,000 in credit-card gift cards as well as a collection of jewellery, cellphones, money counters, luggage and computers. These items were all gathered during 2015 and 2016 raids of the couple’s home and safety deposit boxes at the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of China.
None of the allegations detailed in the civil forfeiture claim have been proved in court.
When federal Crown prosecutors stayed the criminal charges against Ms. Qin, Mr. Zhu and their company at the end of November, it shocked the country and led B.C.'s Attorney-General to launch a review into what went wrong in the investigation that the Mounties had named E-Pirate.
In their response, the pair deny the allegation they were laundering money for criminals through the two businesses.
Ms. Qin also denies the agency’s allegation that she took out two extra mortgages on her Vancouver home a month after the October, 2015, raids to remove equity from the home, according to her court filing.
Stephen Hai Peng Chen, another co-defendant named in the civil forfeiture suit earlier this month, has not yet responded to the province’s attempt to seize a $1-million Vancouver apartment in the tony Kerrisdale neighbourhood and a $1.6-million home in the city’s Grandview-Woodlands area. In a notice of civil claim, the agency said it can seize these properties, which Mr. Chen co-owns with his parents, because he is an alleged MDMA drug trafficker who deposited $5.3-million and withdrew $2.2-million at Silver International over 4½ months in 2015.
Bibhas Vaze, a lawyer recently retained by Mr. Chen, said he and his client will “respond in due course and the claim will be defended vigorously.”
“Folks are not out there saying civil forfeiture can’t and should never exist, the only insistence is that it should proceed lawfully,” he said.