In British Columbia (Director of Civil Forfeiture) v. PacNet Services Ltd., Gudmundseth Mickelson LLP acts for the Province in a civil forfeiture action against a money services business alleged to have serviced a global network of direct mail fraudsters, whose misleading sweepstakes and psychic ‘promotions’ have wrongfully deprived elderly victims of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since February 2018 Gudmundseth Mickelson LLP has successfully:
- Brought an ex parte application for the freezing of bank accounts;
- Resisted the defendants’ attempt to seal the entire court file from public view;
- Resisted the defendants’ application for further particulars of the claim; and
- Resisted the defendants’ applications to delay document production.
- CBC News: Millions sought from Vancouver company accused of processing mail fraud payments
- Vancouver Sun: Vancouver-based PacNet fights legal action to confiscate $15.5 million in properties, bank accounts
THE FACTS AND HISTORY OF THE CASE:
The action against the defendants’ bank accounts and real property was commenced on February 14, 2018. With the commencement of the action our lawyers placed a charge on the title of the real property thereby preventing sale, and in addition, successfully obtained an ex parte interim preservation order in court, prohibiting the defendants from dealing with the bank accounts at issue.
In October and November 2018, a BC Supreme Court chambers judge heard eight interconnected applications in this action brought by the defendants: first, seeking the entire file be sealed; second, seeking further particulars of the Director’s pleading; and third, seeking the Director disclose documents but that their own document disclosure obligations be postponed.
As a basis for these applications the defendants argued the case was “quasi-criminal” and so should be subject to a “unique” approach under the Supreme Court Civil Rules. Our lawyers argued that the civil Rules sufficiently protect the interests of defendants in civil forfeiture proceedings, and there was no need to create a framework separate and apart from them.
The chambers judge held for our client on every disputed issue in all of the applications before the Court and agreed with the position our lawyers advanced that there was nothing unique about civil forfeiture cases that would justify disregarding the normal conduct of civil litigation in favour of a process resembling criminal procedure.
WHY IS THIS CASE IMPORTANT?
These decisions highlight the comprehensive nature of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, which ensure trial fairness for civil litigants in even the most high-stakes litigation. Trial fairness includes ensuring that a defendant may not unduly restrict the progress of litigation by means of applications for particulars, or create unreasonable delay in relation to document disclosure obligations. These decisions are also important as they provide an example of the importance of advocating for the timely and efficient conduct of litigation, which ultimately serves both the litigants and the public interest.