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More drug-related cash and property up for forfeiture

B.C.’s busy Civil Forfeiture Office wants to seize more cash, cell phones and a car nabbed by Campbell River Mounties during drug investigations.

The office never sends out news releases about impending seizures, just random legal notices in local papers. In the Feb. 12 edition of MidWeek, the office posted two notices. The first involved a drug investigation that occurred March 23-24, 2013, in the 80 block of Jones Rd. Items seized, now up for forfeiture, include $5,882.89 in cash, two iPhones and two Nokia phones. The other notice involved a Dec. 11, 2013, drug investigation in the 1600 block of Croation Rd. Items up for forfeiture include a 1997 Mercury Mystique, $805 in cash and a LG cell phone.

After the notices were published, the property owners had 60 days to dispute the forfeiture.

The B.C. forfeiture law has been in effect since 2006, but was seldom used in Campbell River until recently. Last year, the office announced its intention to seize a 2003 Infiniti QX4 along with $11,690 in cash as a result of two drug investigations carried out Oct. 23, 2013, in the 1800 block of Nunns Rd. and in the 700 block South Island Hwy. In 2010, the law was used to seize a notorious crack house in Campbellton on 19th Avenue. The property was later sold and the old house demolished.

In the last two years, the B.C. office has ramped up its operations, moving to seize millions of dollars in homes, property, cash and vehicles. This has also led to criticism because the office doesn’t require a court conviction to seize items seized by police. The provincial office even states on its website, “proceedings are not commenced in court, they are an administrative process.” Seized items then go up for bid at www.bcauction.ca

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the NDP are taking issue with the legislation, particularly in questionable seizures that don’t result in any charges, but are still subject to the Civil Forfeiture Act.

“Even the Ombudsperson has raised the issue and it is our hope that she will investigate further,” said MLA Kathy Corrigan, the NDP’s public safety critic. “While the intention of the civil forfeiture program as a tool in the fight against organized crime is positive, there have been a number of recent criticisms about the application of the law.”

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