B.C. demands house owners explain where they got the money to buy it

The demand is the first use of the province’s new so-called unexplained wealth orders

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B.C. is seeking a court order to compel property owners to explain where $1 million came from to buy a Salt Spring Island house in 2017.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the application filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday is the first in a series of so-called unexplained wealth orders he expects the province to file.

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The B.C. NDP government introduced new measures earlier this year to combat money laundering — including unexplained wealth orders. They must be applied for in each case through the courts and meet certain tests. If approved by a judge, the orders put a reverse onus on the alleged perpetrator to explain where money came from to buy their assets in cases where there is a suspicion of criminal activity or corruption.

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The information from the orders can then be used to pursue civil forfeiture cases where the province aims to seize assets or money.

“Significantly, this is the first unexplained wealth order in Canadian legal history,” Farnworth said in a statement on Thursday.

In this case, the province has alleged in filings in B.C. Supreme Court that money from a $200-million international stock fraud has been laundered through a Salt Spring home at 435 Stewart Rd.

Although the sole owner of the home is listed as Alicia Valerie Davenport, she and her listed spouse, Geordie Lee, also known as Skye Lee, are both listed in the forfeiture case initially filed in August.

Neither have responded in court.

In the lawsuit, the province’s director of civil forfeiture alleges that $1.15 million was delivered between Oct. 30, 2017 and Nov. 2, 2017 in four wire transfers through a shell company to a West Vancouver law firm for a “purported” loan to Geordie Lee, and that those transfers were the proceeds of the unlawful stock fraud.

The Salt Spring Island property was bought outright for $1 million, with no mortgage, on Nov. 3, 2017, according to B.C. property records. The property is now valued at $1.8 million, according to B.C. Assessment Authority records.

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“At all material times, any income lawfully obtained by A. Davenport and G. Lee was insufficient for the purpose of enabling the defendants to acquire or maintain the Stewart Road property, or the whole or portion interest in the Stewart Road property held by the defendants,” the civil suit says.

Davenport, also known as Alicia Lee, is listed as a homemaker on B.C. land title documents. In February, the owner name on title documents was changed from Alicia Lee to Alicia Davenport.

The province has a second civil forfeiture suit in which Davenport and Geordie Lee are named, which also alleges that money from the $200-million stock fraud was laundered through the purchase of another Salt Spring Island residence.

In that lawsuit, Davenport and Lee have denied all wrongdoing and said they had no interest in the property at 391 Baker Rd. on Salt Spring Island.

The province alleges the money to pay for the then-$1.155-million house in 2014, and undertake $526,000 in renovations, came from the $200-million stock fraud.

That property is now worth $4.2 million, according to B.C. property records.

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That case, which also lists company Beresford Estates and others, was launched in 2019.

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