One of the six Whitehorse houses found to contain marijuana grow-ops during RCMP raids last year was previously owned by a Mountie, territorial Judge Karen Ruddy heard Thursday.
In a voir dire — or trial within a trial to contest evidence — Cpl. Rod Hamilton testified that colleague Cpl. Paul Thalhofer, sold his house at 16 Sitka Crescent to one of the men currently on trial.
Kiu Tin Yeung, Guang Xian Zhu, Wei Min Zhai, Wei Xiong Wen, Jian Xiong Jian and Kwok Yin Cheung are facing trial following busts in 2005 that seized more than 4,600 pot plants.
Min Shan Jiang is absent, and is being represented at the trial by his defence lawyer Mitch Foster.
Each faces 18 charges — six each of production of marijuana, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and stealing electricity.
Wei is also charged with possession of property obtained through a crime.
All have pleaded not guilty.
Thalhofer wasn’t the only policeman with knowledge of one of the houses police allege the group turned into a grow-op.
In addition to several Mounties living nearby, Sgt. Jean-Mark Hache and Hamilton, the Yukon’s only trained dog handler, lived directly across the street, the court learned.
Hamilton and Hache were suspicious of their new neighbour.
“I was aware that house had been sold by another member,” said Hamilton during questioning by Crown prosecutor Noel Sinclair.
“Over the next few months, in my opinion, there was some suspicious activity.
“I was concerned there was a grow-op in that house,” he said, through a teleconference link-up from Calgary.
Hamilton observed that two basement windows in the house were covered with black plastic, he said.
And he spoke to a neighbour who complained about power tools being used at the house in the early morning hours, he said.
Hache told Hamilton about a suspicious van he had seen going to the residence, Hamilton testified.
On September 18, 2005, Hamilton and Hache were talking outside Hamilton’s house when that van drove past, said Hamilton.
“I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to stop that vehicle,’” he said.
During the stop, Hamilton took driver’s licence information for the driver and passenger, and then shared it with officers investigating the case, said Hamilton.
“I felt I had a duty to identify the occupants of that vehicle.”
As with evidence provided by several RCMP officers, defence lawyers for the co-accused are contesting Hamilton’s evidence in the voir dire.
“Were you conducting your own private investigation of Sitka?” asked Foster during a cross-examination of Hamilton.
“I didn’t have a formal investigation, no,” replied Hamilton.
Hamilton also stopped a Toyota Camry that police allege was fleeing the scene of a grow-op bust on September 22, 2005.
While locking the vehicle, Hamilton sat inside and noticed a white, non-translucent plastic bag between the front seats, he testified.
“When I picked it up, it was hard, it felt suspicious,” he said.
The bag was knotted shut.
Hamilton ripped it open to find several four-inch thick stacks of cash, he said.
The bag was later found to contain $11,400 in $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
Defence lawyer Ken Westlake, representing Wen — the man driving the Camry — cross-examined Hamilton.
He underlined that Hamilton did not have a search warrant for the vehicle.
“After that (opening the bag of money), it was decided a warrant would be obtained for any further search of the vehicle?” Westlake asked.
“Correct,” said Hamilton.
Cpl. Thomas Wyers, the lead investigator on the case, also took the stand again on Thursday.
Wyers testified the investigation had a $1,000 budget for translators.
But during the grow-op raids — when several men of Asian decent were arrested on the scene — translators were not present, Wyers testified under cross-examination by Westlake.
Westlake briefly noted the potential problems of people being read their rights in English upon arrest and not understanding.
All six co-accused are listening to a Cantonese translation of the trial.
Ruddy’s decision on what evidence will be admissible during the trial is expected on Wednesday.
The lawyer cross-examining Whitehorse RCMP Cpl. Thomas Wyers on Tuesday was Mitch Foster, not Gord Coffin, as reported on Wednesday. As well, the trial is being translated into Cantonese, not Mandarin.