Forfeiture office goes after $3M party penthouse in Vancouver, says host profited from 'unlawful' activity

·3 min read
Mohammad Movassaghi tries to hide his face with a copy of his release order after getting out on bail in January. Movassaghi later pleaded guilty to violating public health orders. (Canadian Press - image credit)
Mohammad Movassaghi tries to hide his face with a copy of his release order after getting out on bail in January. Movassaghi later pleaded guilty to violating public health orders. (Canadian Press - image credit)

The government of B.C. is aiming to seize a $3 million luxury condo where several large parties were held earlier this year in defiance of public health restrictions, at a time when COVID-19 orders had closed all nightclubs.

The host of the penthouse parties, Mohammad Movassaghi, became the first person fined under the pandemic health orders after a bust in March.

Now the director of civil forfeiture is arguing that he should hand over his $1 million stake in the property as "proceeds of crime."

A civil forfeiture action filed on Sept. 24 in B.C. Supreme Court states that at least some of the funds used to acquire or maintain the penthouse at 777 Richards St. were proceeds of "unlawful activity."

The forfeiture document states that Movassaghi's brother, Ali Movassaghi, has been investigated for drug trafficking over the past 13 years and "is associated with known organized crime members."

It says Movassaghi bought the penthouse as a way to launder the proceeds of "unlawful" activity, including selling liquor with no licence and not declaring taxable income.

Also, police say that a number of individuals found at the parties were "known to be associated with organized crime," according to the forfeiture action.

The forfeiture office is asking the court to order that the property be sold and any money remaining after the mortgage is paid to be forfeited to the province.

Mohammad Movassaghi
Mohammad Movassaghi

Parties didn't stop

The document outlines the history of the penthouse parties from the time Vancouver police began getting complaints from neighbours around January this year.

On four separate occasions — on Jan. 3, 17, 23 and 30 — police officers were refused entry by the party host. Police were subsequently granted a search warrant and gained access to the unit during another party on Jan. 31.

Inside, they found dozens of people, a lot of alcohol and a DJ booth. They handed out $17,000 worth of fines to Movassaghi and his guests.

In March, Movassaghi was arrested after police were sent to investigate complaints of another party at the same apartment, which breached the conditions issued after the January raid.

Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Movassaghi was sentenced to one day in jail and a $5,000 fine in April after pleading guilty to failing to comply with a court order and a health officer's order. He was also sanctioned for unlawfully buying alcohol with no licence. He was given 18 months of probation.

In May, the director of civil forfeiture moved to claim close to $8,740 that was seized during the January raid.

But the parties didn't stop.

In August alone, Movassaghi was accused of holding at least six large parties with between 86 and 191 people attending, despite provincial health orders stating that no more than 50 people were allowed to gather in a private residence.

Another raid on Aug. 29 turned up more alcohol and sales receipts.

The forfeiture filing says Movassaghi bought the condo in November 2020 with a down payment of $959,000. B.C. Assessment records show the unit was sold in August 2020 for $2,959,000.

Movassaghi previously worked as a financial planner. The court document says he was fined and banned from the industry by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada in 2017 for forging a signature. In 2019, he was found to have misled enforcement staff in sworn statements.

He later became sole director of Envy Clean Services, Inc., which was incorporated in October 2020.

CBC reached out to Movassaghi and his lawyer, his elder brother Bobak Movassaghi. He has 21 days to respond to the claim in B.C. Supreme Court.

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