A trial involving a North Vancouver Realtor alleged to be at the centre of a kidnapping plot was abruptly halted in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday after the kidnapping victim - a key witness in the case - refused to continue testifying.
Nazfar Mirhadi of North Vancouver is on trial along with six co-accused, charged with a plot to kidnap Sulaiman Safi, 31, from a Vancouver restaurant in October 2011. Mirhadi and the other accused in the case have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A Crown prosecutor has alleged Safi was kidnapped and received death threats after a money-laundering deal with Mirhadi went awry.
On Wednesday, Safi gave evidence by video from California, where he is serving an 81-month sentence for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and ecstasy.
Safi told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce he initially met Mirhadi to help her finance mortgages for real estate property.
But he soon negotiated another deal with one of Mirhadi's associates to launder roughly $400,000 in cash. When that transaction ran into delays, Safi said he cancelled it and tried to get the money back, but was able to retrieve only about $300,000.
The money, carried in a luggage bag, was put in a taxi - but almost immediately police pulled over the cab and seized the money, he said. Later that day Safi drove to a Yaletown restaurant, where he met with Mirhadi and another associate, he said.
Mirhadi demanded to know what had happened and was not pleased when he tried to explain that the money had been seized, he said. "She was very loud. She said . . . 'You don't know what you're getting into.'"
About a week later, he met with Mirhadi and several other people at the Denman Tap House restaurant in Vancouver, he said.
Safi said he was taken behind the restaurant and placed in a dark SUV where his hands were cuffed and he was ordered to put on a ski mask before being driven away to another location.
There, he was taken inside and "zap-strapped" to a chair before being grilled by his captors about the missing money, he said.
One of the captors talked about a movie in which a victim or witness was chopped up into pieces, he said. Another man started screaming at him and threatened to have his fingers cut off, he said.
At another point, a gun was held to his head as he tried to convince the men he didn't have the money.
Safi was to continue testifying Thursday morning, but instead told Bruce by video that he was refusing to do so until he spoke to a lawyer about unspecified concerns.
Crown prosecutor Sandra Dworkin asked Bruce to adjourn the case to Friday, saying some "developments" had come up.
Mirhadi's defence lawyer Matthew Nathanson objected to the delay.
But Bruce agreed to adjourn the case, noting the circumstances of Safi's testimony were "unusual."
The trial, which began last month, is expected to resume Friday.