Suit seeks to permanently obtain $2 million in cash seized by RCMP in 2015 at underground bank Silver International, alleged of laundering hundreds of millions a year
The B.C. civil forfeiture office says it acted properly in launching a suit for millions of dollars against a Vancouver couple allegedly involved in B.C.’s biggest-ever money-laundering scheme.
The civil forfeiture office’s position responds to a petition by the two accused, Caixuan Qin and her spouse Jian Jun Zhu, who are seeking to have the civil forfeiture case thrown out, claiming the office waited more than three years to make an application to seize $2 million found during Oct. 15, 2015 police searches.
The seizures were made as part of the RCMP’s E-Pirate investigation into underground bank Silver International that allegedly laundered hundreds of millions a year involving several countries, including China and Mexico. Qin, the director of Silver International, and Zhu stand accused of running the underground bank, and the civil suit seeks to seize the money permanently as proceeds of crime. The pair have denied the claims in their response to the forfeiture suit.
In an affidavit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Phil Tawtel, the executive directors of the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office, said he first learned of the seizures of $2 million in cash at Silver International in November 2015 through a related case involving the seizure by police of nearly $1 million from a vehicle near Merritt.
That information became known as a result of a “referral” from the RCMP on the nearly $1 million in seized cash, noted Tawtel.
The civil forfeiture office only received a RCMP referral in December 2018 on the $2 million seized at Silver International after criminal charges against Qin and Zhu were stayed, added Tawtel.
It is not unusual for the civil forfeiture office to receive referrals for different property associated with the same investigation at different times, Tawtel said in his affidavit.
“I did not consider commencing an action in relations to the $2 million in November 2015, or at any time prior to the receipt of the referral from the RCMP in respect of it, because I could not evaluate the strength of such a claim until we had received the referral and the police evidence in support of it from the RCMP,” Tawtel’s filing states.
Matthew Nathanson, the lawyer for the two accused, suggested in the application to throw the civil forfeiture suit out that the government agency misled the Victoria judge when it claimed in December that the civil forfeiture case was filed “as soon as it could have been” even though the director had known about the cash since it was seized in 2015.
“The court was clearly misled,” said Nathanson in the court filing.
The civil forfeiture office has also filed suits seeking the assets of some former clients of Silver International.
In March, the director filed a suit against Paul King Jin, a Richmond man who was a key target of the E-Pirate probe, seeking the forfeiture of $4.86 million in cash and assets seized during the investigation.
With files from Kim Bolan.