Province seeks to confiscate condominium in Richmond where chemicals were found

Richmond RCMP allege officers found tens of thousands of dollars and precursor chemicals in luxury suite

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Just before Christmas, Richmond RCMP officers entered a luxury condominium overlooking the Fraser River, where they alleged they found tens of thousands of dollars and boxes full of chemicals used to make fentanyl and methamphetamine.

While no criminal charges have been laid against residents of the unit at 5131 Brighouse Way, the British Columbia government wants to seize the $3.2 million condominium, alleging links to criminal activity.

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The director of civil forfeiture filed a lawsuit earlier this month against owner Ya Ran Li and her spouse Tian Yi Zhang asking that the three-bedroom, four-bathroom unit with an Italian kitchen should be seized by the government.

The statement of claim says RCMP officers arrested Zhang, Li and an unnamed associate on Dec. 20, 2023, and then searched the coastal unit.

The lawsuit says Zhang and an associate “collected two boxes from the concierge desk of the strata building” that day.

“The first box contained five heat-sealed aluminum bags, each weighing approximately five kilograms: one bag of iodine and four bags of sodium hydroxide,” the document alleges. “The second box also contained five heat-sealed bags, weighing approximately five kilograms: three bags of iodine and two bags of benzomethyl ketone.”

All three chemicals are used to produce methamphetamine.

Zhang and his partner took the boxes to the fifth floor and appeared to be heading to a 2,760-square-foot condominium when police entered and arrested them for importing a controlled substance into Canada and possession of precursors, the director alleged.

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The boxes were addressed to Li, who was home at the time and was also detained.

Inside the suite, police seized the cash: C$53,650, “grouped or packaged in a manner that is not consistent with standard banking practices,” as well as a cash counting machine, the lawsuit alleges.

There were also two more “cardboard boxes, each weighing approximately 25 kilograms and containing a white powder” located under the stairs, near most of the cash. Inside was a chemical called “4-fluoroanilino-1-boc-piperidine.”

According to the federal Department of Health, the chemical is used to make fentanyl. It is restricted from July 2022 after the government added it to a list of substances that “may pose a risk to public health or safety … without any legitimate purpose for being imported into Canada or distributed in Canada.”

The director of civil forfeiture said the condo should be seized because, like “the money and the machine, they are the product of an instrument of illegal activity.”

The alleged crimes include importing, producing and possessing controlled substances for the purpose of trafficking, as well as conspiracy, money laundering and possession of the proceeds of crime and failure to report taxable income.

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The condo was listed for sale in spring 2021 for $3.5 million and was advertised as having “unobstructed river and mountain views from enormous terraces.” Li bought it for $300,000 less, took out a mortgage and took possession in September 2021.

Neither Li nor Zhang have filed defense statements in the case. The accusations have not been proven.

The RCMP recently revealed that Canadian transnational criminals are now producing methamphetamine and fentanyl in superlabs across the country for export to the U.S. and abroad, an issue Postmedia investigated in a series called Lethal Exports.

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