A former Vancouver man has admitted on the witness stand that he signed an agreement with the RCMP to be paid $1 million to help infiltrate the Hells Angels and put them behind bars.
Michael Plante, testifying at the second day of the drug trial of Hells Angels member Ronaldo Lising and co-accused Nima Ghavami, said he has already been paid $500,000 and will be paid another $500,000 after all the legal proceedings end.
He also admitted RCMP bought him a 1997 Mustang, leased him a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and paid him up to $14,000 a month, plus expenses, including tickets to Mexico and dinners where he spent up to $2,000.
"Did police ever question the rate you were spending money?" defence lawyer Greg DelBigio asked Plante.
"No," replied Plante, who was brought into a high-security courtroom by an undercover police team.
Plante is living under a new name in an undisclosed location but is not in a witness protection program.
The witness said he had approached police twice before -- in 2000 and 2001 -- about supplying information about his "friends," who included members of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels. But police turned down his offers, he said.
He testified he was charged with extortion in July 2003 after he was hired by the Hells Angels to beat a man.
In April 2004, he added, he signed an initial agreement with police for $30,000 to supply information about a number of targets, including Hells Angels members.
At the time, Plante testified, he was working as a doorman and bouncer at the Cecil Hotel strip bar on Granville Street. He said he was only making about $10 a hour and working about 15 hours a week.
To supplement his income, he recalled, he worked as a middleman in drug deals -- he would make a few hundreds dollars a month putting dealers and buyers together.
He also made some extra money as hired "muscle" by collecting debts for the Hells Angels, he said.
One time, he recalled, he went along with a Hells Angels member, Randy Potts, who intended to fatally shoot a man who had beaten up a Hells Angels hangaround of the East End chapter -- a hangaround is a person who is allowed to attend Hells Angels functions but has not been accepted into the Hells Angels.
"I went along as a companion, a friend," Plante explained of his accompanying the biker to the intended victim's house, who wasn't shot.
"You were there taking care of business," DelBigio suggested.
"To further my status in the Hells Angels," Plante replied, explaining he had applied to become a member of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels and was often invited to the biker gang's clubhouse.
He said he signed his initial written agreement with the RCMP -- dated April 15, 2004 --while he was working as an informant, for which he was paid $2,000 a month.
But he signed a new agreement on June 19, 2004, when he became a police agent. The new agreement said he would assist police in exchange for a $1-million reward.
Plante said he was aware that the agreement could be terminated if he committed a crime of violence or was involved in a drug offence under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.
The witness said he was a steroid user and weightlifter who then weighed about 111 kilograms (240 pounds) and could bench-press 400 pounds (180 kilos).
Plante denied he decided to work as a police agent because he had a grudge against a number of people police wanted to target during the investigation.
He also denied the defence lawyer's suggestion that his steroid use made him volatile. Plante said he was only taking a half tablet of steroids a day.
The defence lawyer went through a number of assaults committed by Plante while he was a police agent, which the lawyer contends was beyond the scope allowed under Section 25.1 of the Criminal Code, which regulates the behaviour of police agents.
The defence has applied for the charges to be stayed against the accused, alleging there was an abuse of process because the police knowingly permitted Plante to commit crimes such as assault, gun possession and steroid trafficking that were not exempted under the Criminal Code.
Ghavami, 26, earlier filed a civil lawsuit against the RCMP, claiming he was assaulted by Plante, who allegedly put a gun in Ghavami's mouth a number of times.
He claims the agent's illegal activities were sanctioned by an RCMP cover team.
The federal prosecutor in the case, Martha Devlin, plans to question Plante after he is cross-examined by defence lawyers DelBigio and Don Morrison, who is representing Ghavami.
Provincial Crown prosecutor Geordie Proulx had applied Monday for a temporary ban on publication of the proceedings, which the trial judge, Justice Victor Curtis, lifted Tuesday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the media.
"I'm not persuaded publication [by the media] will present a real and substantial risk to a subsequent trial," the judge said in an oral ruling late Tuesday.
The provincial Crown said he was concerned that evidence heard at the trial of Lising and Ghavami could affect the right of the accused to a fair trial at another jury trial in November, where Lising and others are accused of committing crimes at the direction and for the profit of the Hells Angels.
At the current trial, Ghavami has pleaded not guilty to trafficking methamphetamines and Lising has pleaded not guilty to possessing methamphetamines for the purpose of trafficking.
Two senior RCMP officers --Insp. Bob Paulson, who headed the investigation, and Assistant Commissioner Gary Bass, who oversaw the criminal probe -- are expected to be called to testify at the abuse-of-process voir dire, which is expected to take two weeks.
The trial, which is being heard without a jury, is expected to last six weeks.
The two accused were among 18 men charged in July 2005 after a police investigation code-named Project Epandora, which culminated with a raid on the clubhouse of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels.
The trial continues today at the Vancouver Law Courts.
We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.