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Poker News: December 9th, 2009

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Copyright © Globe and Mail

HEADLINE: Surrey Six suspect wants police to return poker winnings

Sophon Sek does not believe his incarceration as a suspect in the Surrey Six gangland slayings of 2007 is reason for police to seize $364,000 he won in a championship poker game the day before he was arrested, his lawyer says.

The River Rock Casino Resort where the competition was held as well as the BC Lottery Corporation, which licenses and operates gaming and casinos, have confirmed that the funds won by the Cloverdale resident were seized at the request of the RCMP.

Alan Ip said in an interview today that the lottery corporation has told him police will soon serve them with paperwork justifying the seizure, and that he looks forward to getting a copy so he can prepare the appropriate response.

“I am interested to see what grounds they have to justify this and I don't think they can, and I expect Mr. Sek to be getting his money back that he won fair and square.”

According to Mr. Ip, his client makes his living as a professional poker player. “He spent considerable time and effort to win, both in terms of the money as well as the place – winning first prize. He intends to go on with his poker playing career and this is a significant blow to him.”

Mr. Ip says he wants the police to explain their decision so the rationale can be tested in court, and is promising civil action to get the money back if no explanation is forthcoming.

“He won it fair and square. There is no allegation this tournament wasn't aboveboard or that he cheated or anything at all,” Mr. Ip said.

He said the seizure would only be justified if the money was being seized as evidence, but that there is no indication that is the case.

If police fear Mr. Sek was a flight risk, he said they should have a bail hearing to put the concern forward.

“We're not a tin pot banana republic where police say, ‘We don't like the looks of you and we're going to take your stuff,' “ said Mr. Ip.

“We still have due process and the charter of rights. These charges are serious and distressing allegations, but nothing has been proven and he's not been convicted.”

His 30-year-old client is in custody, pending a Nov. 30 court appearance after he was arrested this week and charged with manslaughter and breaking and entering with intent related to the deaths of six men.

Mr. Ip declined to discuss Mr. Sek's ability to cover the costs of his legal expenses.

Four of the men found dead in a 15th-floor Surrey, B.C., apartment in October 2007 had ties to the UN gang, police have said, but two – 22-year-old Chris Mohan, who lived across the hall, and Ed Schellenberg, a 55-year-old fireplace repairman – were innocent bystanders caught up in the gang-related conflict.

Eight months ago, police began making arrests in the case after 27-year-old Dennis Karbovanec pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 15 years.

James Bacon, Cory Lal, Matthew Johnston and Cody Haevischer face various charges in the case, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

In June, Michael Le was arrested in the Philippines as he arrived at an airport in Manila. He has since been returned to Canada. He faces two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in the case.

Police have always said additional arrests were possible.

Mr. Sek emerged triumphant on Sunday among about 800 players at the B.C. Poker Championships held at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, B.C.

On Monday, he was arrested at a Vancouver-area gas station.

RCMP Corporal Dale Carr, a spokesman for the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that has handled the case, indicated in a statement today that there was little he could say about the police decision.

“We are still in the process of an ongoing investigation,” he said. “We cannot discuss our ongoing investigation or any portion thereof while we're in the process of that investigation.”

The BC Lottery Corporation, said in a statement that prize payout policies permit a delay in payments and that Mr. Sek has been issued a “delayed jackpot document.”

The statement said entrants in the poker contest were screened to ensure they were not barred from entering a gaming facility.

A spokesman for River Rock this week defended the competition and said they had no prior concerns about Mr. Sek.

Court records show Mr. Sek was charged in July, 2008, with two weapons offences – possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, and a count of carrying a concealed weapon or prohibited device. The matters have not yet been resolved Poker Bonus

Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on December 5th, 2009

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