Pubdate: Mon, 10 Apr 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Page: GT1


Cash seized at Pearson airport from alleged marijuana

The attorney general is seeking a forfeiture order for almost $600,000
seized from the carry-on luggage of an alleged pot dispensary courier
waiting to board a flight to Vancouver at Pearson airport in January.

"There are reasonable grounds for the court to find that the property
that is the subject of this proceeding is the proceeds and/or
instrument of unlawful activity within the meaning of the Civil
Remedies Act," reads the notice of application filed in Superior Court
last month.

Peel police allege the currency "appears to be associated with illegal
storefront marijuana dispensaries," based on the large sum bundled in
a suitcase "rather than in an account with a financial institution
where it would accrue interest," according to a supporting affidavit
filed in court.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The forfeiture application names as respondents Yacob Issayas, the
alleged money courier, and his employer, DMG Management Group.

Also named is Nadine Gourkow, a director of 2501615 Ontario Ltd. and
Canna Clinic Medicinal Society.

As part of its ongoing enforcement effort against illegal pot shops,
the city of Toronto is also seeking an injunction to close B.C.-based
Canna Clinics, which has seven outlets in the city, for contravening
zoning bylaws.

The injunction application also names Ivan-Noe Gourkow-Schulkowski as
a corporate operator.

Toronto lawyer Paul Lewin, who represents Canna Clinics, says he plans
to "vigorously fight" both the forfeiture application and injunction.
He declined to comment further. Both matters are set to be heard in

According to the affidavit, security agents contacted Peel police
earlier this year about an individual who "travels through Toronto's
Pearson International Airport from Toronto to Vancouver every two
weeks, normally between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m."

On Jan.15, after "bulk organic material" was found in luggage during
security screening, police questioned Issayas, 28, as he sat in a
departure gate at Terminal 3 with a black suitcase and knapsack
between his legs, says the affidavit of Peel Const. Robert Trujillo.

Issayas told the officers he was in the entertainment business and the
$120,000 was for music videos.

"Issayas indicated that he did not understand why there is an issue as
he had done this many times before without incident," the affidavit

Police charged Issayas, who had no criminal record, with money
laundering and possession of proceeds of crime. The charges were
withdrawn on Feb. 13. When police counted the Canadian currency they
discovered $590,140 bundled by elastic bands, including 17,002
twenty-dollar bills, the documents say.

Also seized from Issayas was a "new hire employee information form for
Canna Clinic." There was also a receipt for a pot purchase, with no
logo or prices, the affidavit states.

Trujillo says he received a letter, dated Jan. 20, from the Canada
Revenue Agency that Nadine Gourkow informed CRA the seized money was
intended to repay a GST account. Mark Sraga, Toronto's director of
investigation services, said Friday that while pot shop owners purport
to be in business to provide reasonable access to medical marijuana
users, the amount of money seized shows this to be a "bogus" claim.

"What medical profession pulls in $590,000 every two

A spokesperson for the Attorney General wrote in an email that this is
the only civil forfeiture proceeding relating to cannabis

In Ontario, civil forfeiture legislation focuses on the connection
between property and unlawful activity, and is not dependent on
criminal charges or convictions, the provincial government's website

"The standard of proof required for civil forfeiture is the same as it
is in all civil actions - a balance of probabilities."
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