The B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office has won the first round in its battle for a Richmond penthouse condo owned by a woman police believe has connections to gang associates involved in the drug trade.
A B.C. Supreme Court judgeagreed Wednesday( (www.courts.gov.bc.ca») ) to place an interim preservation order on Louise Ching Man Kwok's two-storey suite at 6333 Katsura St., blocking Kwok from selling the property while the forfeiture case is decided.
Kwok, a 32-year-old federal government employee, doesn't have a criminal record and isn't facing any charges. But after a drug bust involving her rental tenants in February, police suspect that she profited from the drug trade and that organized crime provided her with the funds to buy her apartment.
Just a little over a month after Kwok rented the suite to Hoang Nam Lam last winter, officers with the Vancouver Police Department's organized crime unit conducted a search and discovered 2.03 kilograms of cocaine, 13.2 kilograms of a known cocaine cutting agent, one gram of heroin, two grams of marijuana and $41,825 in cash. Lam is now facing drug charges.
Kwok put the apartment up for sale at an asking price of $745,000 just 23 days after the raid. Listings for Kwok's two-bedroom, three-bathroom, 1,267-sq-ft suite can still be viewed online( (www.westca.com») ).
Kwok had argued in court that she didn't know there was anything illegal happening in the apartment and she hadn't met Lam before she agreed to rent to him. She also denied that she used gang money to buy the condo.
But Justice Bruce Greyell ruled that because Kwok didn't offer to explain how she got the money for the apartment -- purchased for $539,300 in 2008 -- the CFO deserved a chance to argue for its forfeiture.
Kwok currently makes an annual income of about $65,000 working as a financial analyst for Service Canada. She secured a $440,000 mortgage to purchase her condo, leaving about $44,300 that she would have had to provide for a deposit.
Investigators allege that Kwok is connected to Bryan and Jeremy Pang, brothers who are believed to have links with Asian gangs. She hasn't yet tried to explain her relationship with the Pangs, according to court documents.
In his decision, Greyell acknowledged that evidence linking Kwok to the Pangs is based mainly on "opinion evidence and hearsay," but said police have still raised a "serious question to be tried."
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