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Rural 'marijuana factory' seized

A house and a hectare of land near Williams Lake where two Surrey men ran a marijuana grow operation have been seized under B.C.
A house and a hectare of land near Williams Lake where two Surrey men ran a marijuana grow operation have been seized under B.C.'s civil forfeiture legislation.
— image credit: RCMP handout

A house and a hectare of land near Williams Lake where two Surrey men ran a marijuana grow operation have been seized in what the B.C. government calls the largest grow-op to be subject to its civil forfeiture legislation.

"This was really a marijuana factory," said Solicitor General John van Dongen of the property in Likely.

When it was raided by RCMP in November 2006, nearly every room – plus an outbuilding – were set up with 137 growing lamps and 5,500 plants. Police estimated that with four crops that size per year, the operation could supply one joint for every person in B.C.

Van Dongen said after two men pleaded guilty in the case and were sentenced to a year in jail, Crown counsel decided to turn the property over to the province's civil forfeiture office rather than seize it under federal proceeds of crime legislation. Recent amendments to the two-year-old civil forfeiture law extended it to property used unlawfully that could cause bodily harm, such as the car of a drinking driver, or property that generates illegal profits such as a grow op.

If the property was seized under the proceeds of crime legislation, the bulk of the proceeds would have ended up in federal coffers.

The Likely property will be sold at market value with the proceeds turned over to the B.C. government. So far there have been 30 cases where judges have approved civil forfeiture, and $4 million in cash, vehicles and other valuables have been turned over to the province to compensate victims of crime, fund prevention programs, help prevent and remedy the effects of illegal activity and cover the costs of administering the act.

Surrey residents Sambath Om, 37, and Kim Noun, 42, pled guilty in March to production of a controlled substance in B.C. Supreme Court in Williams Lake.

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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