Hells Angels win 13-year court battle against province
By Kim Bolan
B.C. Hells Angels have won a 13-year court battle against the provincial government over whether three of their clubhouses, in Vancouver, Kelowna and Nanaimo, should be forfeited as instruments of criminal activity. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies ruled Thursday that the director of civil forfeiture had not proven that the clubhouses “play an important role in enabling and empowering members of the Hells Angels to engage in serious crime for financial gain.”
He said the government agency had not provided enough evidence that the Angels were an international criminal network. “The director has not proven that the Hells Angels is a worldwide criminal organization,” Davies said. “Although the evidence adduced does establish that many members of the Hells Angels in British Columbia and Ontario have committed serious criminal offences, there is a paucity of admissible evidence concerning such criminals offending in other jurisdictions.” Davies said that while the director presented evidence of crimes inside the Vancouver East End clubhouse in the mid-2000s, there was no proof that they were committed for the benefit of the Hells Angels as an organization.
He said there was no evidence presented at the yearlong trial that the Nanaimo and Kelowna clubhouses had been used to commit crimes despite convictions of several members of each chapter. The long-running civil case began in November 2007 when the RCMP raided the Nanaimo clubhouse. In 2012, the civil forfeiture case was expanded to include the Vancouver and Kelowna clubhouses.
The Hells Angels countersued the government, claiming the Civil Forfeiture Act is unconstitutional. During the trial, Davies heard from police, former Toronto Hells Angel-turned-police agent Dave Atwell and Micheal Plante, who infiltrated the Angels for police in B.C.
B.C. Hells Angels members Rick Ciarniello and Damiano Dipopolo took the stand for their club.
Davies found that Atwell was reliable in describing specific crimes of Hells Angels in Ontario. But he said he found “Atwell’s evidence concerning the involvement of Hells Angels clubhouses in relation to criminal conduct to be exaggerated, lacking in specificity and unreliable.”