A man was kidnapped and received death threats after a deal with a North Vancouver real estate agent to transfer $440,000 to the U.S. from Canada went awry, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
In her opening statement, Crown counsel Sandra Dworkin outlined a kidnapping scenario with Nazfar Mirhadi, a former North Vancouver real estate agent now on trial along with six others, being at the centre of events.
Dworkin made no mention of gang connections, but at the time the seven accused were arrested, police said some of them were linked to the Red Scorpions and Independent Soldiers gangs.
The prosecutor said kidnap victim Sulaiman Safi met with Mirhadi in October 2011 and agreed to help her and associates transfer the money. The plan was for Safi, now serving a lengthy jail term in the U.S. for a major drug conspiracy, to take $440,000 to his friends and have them get the money across the border, Dworkin said.
But due to communication issues, the funds did not get to where they were supposed to go, she said.
"After a couple of days, Mirhadi demanded the money to be returned. On Oct. 13, Mr. Safi went to retrieve the money from his friends in order to return it to Mirhadi." She said Safi was able to get a substantial portion of the money, about $264,000, back from his friends. After having the money put in a cab, Safi was following the cash in another vehicle when police stopped the cab and seized the money.
"Ms. Mirhadi did not believe Mr. Safi when he told her what had happened," Dworkin said. "She accused him of robbing them. She held him responsible and demanded that the full amount of money be returned."
Over the next week, Safi tried to obtain proof that the police had seized the money to convince Mirhadi and a friend of hers that he was telling the truth, Dworkin said. But Mirhadi demanded a meeting with Safi to discuss the return of the money, a meeting that took place at the Denman Tap House restaurant, said the Crown.
As they were talking in the restaurant, two additional men, accused kidnappers Demple Brar and Robert Carr, approached them, Dworkin said. The men were not known to Safi and Brar took control of the meeting, asking Safi to come to his office, Dworkin said.
Edmond Gammel and David Tarrant, two more accused kidnappers, joined Safi in the back lane and a vehicle occupied by accused kidnapper Thomas Crawford drove up, Dworkin said. Safi was placed in the vehicle and taken to a location in Richmond where he was held overnight, she said. Safi negotiated his release after he agreed to come up with enough money and cocaine to cover the demands of his captors, said Dworkin.
Five of the accused kidnappers - Gammel, Carr, Crawford, Veronica Moncur and Tarrant - were arrested from the two vehicles. Mirhadi and Brar later surrendered to police.
"He was tied up and threatened with bodily harm and death," Dworkin said. "A gun was put to his head and he was threatened that his fingers would be cut off if he did not pay the money."
Dworkin told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce she would be relying on a "web of direct and circumstantial" evidence to prove the Crown's case.
The trial continues and is expected to run 10 weeks.