POLITICS

B.C. court convicts 3 of 5 men in 'Sanghera crime group' on weapons charges

05/17/2012 06:28 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Three members of a crime group that Vancouver's police chief once partly blamed for a bloody gang war that gripped the city have been convicted of weapons charges, though two arrested in the same case were acquitted.

Boby and Navdip Sanghera were convicted Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court of a variety of weapons charges dating back to late 2008, including possession of a prohibited weapon and unlawfully being in a vehicle with a firearm

Savdip Sanghera was also convicted of transferring a semi-automatic handgun on Jan. 31, 2009.

But Charanjit Rangi and Jaspreet Virk were acquitted on all charges.

"We respect the court's ruling and we're pleased that the court saw fit to agree with the Crown's submissions with respect to three of the five accused," said Mark Sheardown, Crown counsel.

When asked if the Crown will appeal the two acquittals, Sheardown said prosecutors will review the ruling and make a decision in due course.

A sentencing hearing for the Sangheras has been scheduled for May 25.

Several defence lawyers declined comment after the verdicts, but Udham Sanghera, father of Boby Sanghera, said outside of court that his son will appeal.

The case dates back to 2008 when shootings erupted in South Vancouver.

At the time, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu conceded a "brutal" gang war was being waged in the city, and he alleged the Sanghera group was partly responsible.

Vancouver police claimed the group engaged in a series of retaliatory drive-by shootings during an escalation in gang violence.

During the trial, the court heard the Sangheras were at odds with two other crime groups.

An Oct. 15, 2008 search of a detached garage of a Vancouver house believed to be the residence of Boby Sanghera yielded a loaded pistol magazine, two sawed-off butts from long firearms and seven boxes of 9 millimetre and 40 calibre ammunition.

The next day, surveillance video at the Edgewater Casino showed Boby Sanghera and a member of one of the rival groups, in a pushing match, possibly with a punch thrown.

On Nov. 5, 2008, surveillance officers saw a "close encounter" between a Sanghera vehicle and a vehicle driven by a man from the other group, indicating the situation was "getting hot," the court heard.

A confidential source told police a few days later that the Sangheras were in "hunt mode," armed and in ballistic vests, the court heard.

On Nov. 8, 2008, Vancouver police stopped a rented Chrysler and found three loaded, prohibited, restricted weapons hidden in a natural space behind the glove box, the court heard.

During the trial, four of the accused alleged their rights were violated when they were stopped and arrested.

But B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Heather Holmes ruled police were acting under a reasonable belief that the accused were about to shoot someone when they were taken into custody in Nov. 2008.

Originally, seven men faced charges, but last year, the same charges were not proceeded with against Gordon Taylor and Udham Sanghera — the purported leader of the group.

In her ruling Thursday, Holmes said the evidence submitted during the trial and the inferences drawn presented a compelling circumstantial case that Boby Sanghera knew about the guns and had a measure of control over them when stopped by police on Nov. 8, 2008.

She said Boby Sanghera was the renter and sole driver, and police also found an extra gun magazine, balaclava and gloves inside the vehicle.

She said she had no reasonable doubt and could draw no other rational inference.

Before convicting Navdip Sanghera, Holmes said his DNA was found on two of the guns, noting he also made incriminating comments in association with the DNA analysis.

She said she had no reasonable doubt that Navdip was also in possession of the guns.

While calling the circumstances related to Rangi and Virk "highly suspicious," she said the Crown did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Holmes said the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Savdip Sanghera transferred a semi-automatic handgun on Jan. 31, 2009, basing her decision on voice analysis of an intercepted phone call.