Metro Vancouver properties worth a combined $7.5 million sought in civil forfeiture

The province is trying to seize more than $7.5 million in Metro Vancouver houses it alleges were used to launder drug trafficking money.

In a statement of claim filed in a B.C. Supreme Court, the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office alleges six homes in Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam and Mission were bought or maintained with money from trafficking fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. 

It also alleges Can Auto, an auto and appliance repair business registered at one of the properties, was used as a front to conceal operations of the drug ring. 

The defendants named in the suit are Ashok (Roy) Kumar Naidu, his current or former spouse Gina Chinamma Naidu, their son, Avenel Naidu, and his girlfriend, Alisha Ann Watkins.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.

According to the suit, the New Westminster Police Department began investigating the alleged drug trafficking ring in September 2017.

Police allege Avenel Naidu was one of the leaders of the drug ring and that he and his father were directors of Can Auto.

In June 2018, search warrants were issued for the properties.

Police found drugs, including an opioid analgesic that is almost eight times as potent as morphine, guns, jewelry, more than two dozen cellphones, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and YSL handbags and Rolex watches, some of which were stolen.

Police also found about $200,000 Canadian dollars as well as Mexican and U.S. currency, which the provincial agency is seeking to have forfeited.

The suit alleges the money garnered from drug trafficking was deposited into various bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000 so as not to raise suspicion. 

Between November 2014 and February 2018, Ashok Naidu allegedly deposited more than $275,000 in cash into the accounts at different branches. 

The deposits were often large numbers of $5 to $100 bills, not consistent with legitimate business income, the suit says. 

The family would then allegedly use the money to pay mortgages on existing homes and buy new ones. Furthermore, the defendants are alleged to have prepared fraudulent employment letters, pay statements and tax documents to support the laundering. 

The suit alleges the properties acted as meeting places for the drug trade, storage for drugs and space for an unlicensed marijuana grow operation. 

The property and related bank accounts have been frozen as the civil suit progresses.

The suit alleges Can Auto's business bank accounts were not consistent in size and frequency of deposits for a business involved in auto repair work.

"Avenel Naidu exhibited a level of personal expenditure and asset ownership inconsistent with being employed at Can Auto," the suit says.

Furthermore, it alleges it could not be explained by other legitimate sources of income. 

The suit asks that the money, jewelry, handbags and the six properties, as well as their proceeds, be forfeited to the government. 

If not, the suit says the properties will "likely" be used for unlawful activity in the future.