INVESTIGATOR DEFENDS USE OF DRUG DEALER AS INFORMER
VANCOUVER -- The lead RCMP investigator in a major probe of the Hells Angels in Vancouver testified yesterday that the use of a former strip club bouncer and steroid trafficker as a police agent was the only way to get inside the biker organization.
"The Hells Angels uses all sorts of methods to combat law enforcement," Chief Superintendent Bob Paulson said. "Without this strategy we could never infiltrate them."
The head of the $7-million E-Pandora probe was required to testify about the actions of the agent, Michael Plante, as part of an abuse-of-process motion filed by Nima Ghavami and Ronaldo Lising.
The two defendants are facing one count each of trafficking in methamphetamine and are among the 18 people charged in July of 2005 as part of E-Pandora.
Mr. Plante was paid a lump sum of $530,000 to act as an informant and then police agent from the fall of 2003 until early 2005. He also received payments that ranged from $4,000 to $15,000 a month. As well, he has been promised a further $500,000 to be a Crown witness in four other E-Pandora trials.
Mr. Justice Victor Curtis of B.C. Supreme Court has heard evidence that Mr. Plante was permitted to participate in the trafficking of more than 20 kilograms of methamphetamine while under the control of police. The RCMP allowed the drugs to be sold on the street.
"Otherwise, it would compromise the investigation," said Chief Supt. Paulson, who is now based in Ottawa and heads the RCMP's Organized Crime Intelligence Branch.
Mr. Plante was permitted to continue to sell steroids and small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, and he admitted in testimony last month that he committed assaults while in an undercover capacity.
The sale of steroids was the "cover story" for Mr. Plante as he tried to rise up the ranks of the Hells Angels, said Chief Supt. Paulson. Mr. Plante quit as a police agent in early 2005 when he was denied a rise in status by the biker group.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act permits someone under the "direction and control" of police to traffic narcotics. There are no specific guidelines on how much illegal activity is acceptable.
The senior RCMP officer testified that if police gave approval to traffic, it would not violate the act. The RCMP only kept records of the approval for specific drug transactions as a "administrative, logistical effort to be transparent," he said.
Chief Supt. Paulson rejected a suggestion by defence lawyer Greg DelBigio that the RCMP was giving a "broad" interpretation to its powers "to accomplish its goals."
The defence is asking Judge Curtis to dismiss the charges as a result of the conduct of the police agent. If successful, it could damage the Crown's case in the coming E-Pandora trials, where Mr. Plante is also a key witness.
The charges against the other E-Pandora defendants include trafficking, extortion, assault and membership in a criminal organization.
Chief Supt. Paulson alleged in an interview on a CBC program this month that the Hells Angels in B.C. are responsible for nearly 20 slayings, but he said police have insufficient evidence to lay charges.
Tue, 31 Oct 2006
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2006, The Globe and Mail Company