Crown, OPP fail to stop $16.5M lawsuit by former brewery own

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Crown, OPP fail to stop $16.5M lawsuit by former brewery own

Postby Thomas » Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:03 am

Crown, OPP fail to stop $16.5M lawsuit by former brewery owner

'It’s become a rather strange approach. You can’t prove your case criminally, so you then try to seize assets civilly,' says lawyer, calling property owner 'blameless'

The former owners of the Molson brewery property in Barrie — where the country’s largest indoor marijuana grow operation was discovered in 2004 — have the go-ahead to move forward with their $16.5-million lawsuit against the federal government and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

In the latest twist following a decade of legal wrangling, an Ontario Court of Appeal panel has unanimously upheld a lower court’s finding that the limitation period had not expired for the malicious prosecution lawsuit filed by Fercan Developments Inc. and GRVN Group Inc., dismissing the Crown’s attempt to put an end to the case.

Lawyer Brian Greenspan says it’s no longer about Fercan and its owner’s insistence that he had nothing to do with the illegal grow-op in which his brother and others were convicted.

“It’s not just our claim anymore. There’s been a determinative finding that the Crown engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, (and) should never have brought the application for forfeiture,” Greenspan, one of the lawyers representing Fercan, said shortly after the appeal court released the decision Thursday.

On Jan. 10, 2004, police uncovered “one of the largest and most sophisticated indoor marijuana-growing operations in Canadian history" in the 450,000-square-foot former brewery alongside Highway 400 in Barrie's south end.

Inside they found 20,000 plants, 300 pounds of cannabis and extensive growing equipment located behind concrete block walls, which was all protected by a series of locked doors and surveillance equipment. Nine people were arrested.

Fercan had purchased the 35-acre site three years earlier and was developing a coffee and a bottled water business on the site and renting out sections of the building to small businesses. The former brewery building has since been demolished.

The series of lawsuits began with the federal government’s attempt to take ownership of the property through a lengthy criminal forfeiture hearing under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

When that failed eight years ago, the investigator took it to the provincial government, which then launched its own forfeiture proceedings under the Civil Remedies Act. That also failed, as did an attempt to revive it in appeal.

Fercan and GRVN were awarded $570,000 in costs, which the Crown also tried to appeal, after winning the forfeiture case.

They now want the government to make up for the earnings lost through that process which they say amounted to civil conspiracy, claiming malicious prosecution, negligent investigation and misfeasance in public office.

“It’s become a rather strange approach. You can’t prove your case criminally, so you then try to seize assets civilly,” said Greenspan. “It’s bizarre that these two pieces of legislation can live together. But they tried both here.

“What more decisive conclusion can you reach than Fercan, the owners of the property, were absolutely blameless," he added.

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