Burnaby auto shop, homes part of $7.5-million civil forfeiture suit

The province alleges ties to drug trafficking and money laundering.

A Burnaby auto repair shop acted as a front for a drug operation busted a year-and-a-half ago, according to allegations in a B.C. Supreme Court civil suit filed by the province.

The B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office is going after the business, Can Auto at 7409 Conway St., in a claim involving about $7.5 million in total assets, including five homes in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Mission.

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The civil forfeiture office says the property should be forfeited to the province because of alleged links to drug trafficking and money laundering. 

Can Auto’s owner, Ashok Kumar Naidu (also known as Roy Naidu) is named in the claim, as is his present or former wife, Gina Chinamma Naidu, their son Avenel Anish Naidu and his girlfriend, Alisha Ann Watkins.

No criminal charges have been laid in the case and none of the allegations have been tested in court, but plaintiffs in a civil case only need to prove their allegations are more likely than not to be true. (In a criminal case, the Crown needs to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”)

In its claim, the civil forfeiture office outlines the findings of a New Westminster police investigation.

The NWPD started investigating Avenel Naidu in connection with a dial-a-dope drug operation in September 2017, according to the claim.

Police determined he was one of the operators of the drug ring, the claim states, and that Can Auto was being used as a storage and meeting location, where Avenel Naidu and associates were observed coming and going on multiple occasions.

“The NWPD did not observe any legitimate car repair or maintenance happening at Can Auto during the period it was under surveillance,” the civil forfeiture office’s claim states.

(The claim notes, however, that more than one auto repair business operated out of the Conway Street property, which is owned by Ashok and Gina Naidu.)

Search warrants executed on June 20, 2018 at multiple locations believed to be connected to the drug ring – including Can Auto and a suspected stash house in a condo tower at 4360 Beresford St., where Avenel Naidu and his girlfriend were living – revealed large quantities of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine in various packages, as well as and a number of weapons, including bear spray, hard-knuckle gloves, two batons, a 9mm loaded Luger pistol with the serial number scratched off, a stolen and loaded 9mm Norcino pistol, a 40-calibre Smith & Wesson pistol with ammunition and an airsoft pistol.

Police also seized money counters, stacks of Canadian, American and Mexican cash, designer handbags and jewelry, some of it stolen, according to the claim.

The civil forfeiture office says Can Auto, where Avenel Naidu was reportedly employed, was used to conceal the drug ring’s operation.

“Deposits to Can Auto’s business bank accounts are inconsistent in their size and frequency with deposits for automotive repair work,” states the claim. “At all material times, Avenel Naidu exhibited a level of personal expenditure and asset ownership inconsistent with being employed at Can Auto and not explicable by other legitimate sources of income, including his acquisition of multiple expensive vehicles, watches, designer bags and other luxury items.”

The civil forfeiture office claims the defendants deposited proceeds from the drug operation into various bank accounts and that Ashok Naidu made deposits at different banks to avoid suspicion.

“The deposits were frequently large numbers of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills, neatly bundled, not consistent with legitimate business income,” the claim states.

The civil forfeiture office further claims the defendants used ill-gotten gains to pay down mortgages and buy real estate.

Bank accounts held by Avenel, Ashok and Gina Naidu and Can Auto have been frozen, along with the contents of safety deposit boxes, the Can Auto property and five homes, including Ashok Naidu’s last known residence at 8601 Armstrong Ave. in Burnaby.

None of the defendants have filed a response to the suit.

The New Westminster Police Department told the NOW that charges related to its drug trafficking investigation were forwarded to Crown Counsel but were not laid.

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