A longtime Vancouver condo developer was briefly taken into custody Thursday morning after a ruling by a B.C. Supreme Court judge moved him one step closer to extradition on criminal charges in the US, a few hours before a B.C. Court of Appeal judge decided the accused fraudster should be released on bail pending an appeal.
While Thursday’s extradition hearing concerned the alleged conduct of Vancouver developer Mark John Chandler a decade ago in California, court also heard details of his more recent real estate dealings back in B.C., and of a new, ongoing police investigation.
An FBI investigation into Chandler’s participation in an alleged scheme involving a purported Los Angeles condo development appears to have produced a legitimate case supporting allegations of fraud, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Duncan said Thursday morning in her reasons for ordering Chandler committed for extradition.
Chandler, 54, stood in the prisoner’s docket while Duncan advised him of his right to appeal, then he was handcuffed by a sheriff who escorted him out of the courtroom.
Chandler’s lawyer Michael Bolton immediately filed a notice of appeal, and an hour later, Bolton and a lawyer for the Government of Canada were upstairs before a B.C. Court of Appeal judge, arguing over whether Chandler should be released on bail pending his appeal on the committal order.
During the course of the hearing over Chandler’s bail, court heard details of Chandler’s latest Metro Vancouver real estate project, a 91-unit Langley condo development which has in recent months become mired in a complex tangle of multi-million dollar lawsuits alleging breach of trust, been ordered into receivership, and drawn the scrutiny of B.C.’s real estate regulator.
And now, court heard Thursday, B.C.’s real estate watchdog has referred their investigation into Chandler’s Murrayville House development — in which they found “serious allegations of misconduct” — to the Langley RCMP for a criminal investigation.
The findings of the investigation by B.C.’s Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) into Chandler’s Murrayville House development — in which the same condo units were allegedly sold to multiple different buyers — were of concern to the Attorney General of Canada, said John Gibb-Carsley, a Canadian Department of Justice lawyer acting on behalf of the US government seeking Chandler’s extradition.
Gibb-Carsley raised OSRE’s investigation into Chandler’s recent Murrayville House dealings in Thursday’s bail hearing, he told the court, because the findings raised “concerns that some of the same conduct that underpins the request for extradition is alleged to be occurring here.”
“The specific reason that it is of concern to the Attorney General is that it is very similar to the allegations in the request for extradition: the funds that were to be used for the project in California were used, the allegations are, for personal uses by Mr. Chandler, including a $90,000 trip to Hawaii and purchases at various luxury shops in Vancouver. So the concern is that funds — even if it is a loan — are being given for one purpose and used for another.”
B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Peter Willcock, considering whether Chandler should be released on bail again pending his appeal on the extradition order, asked Gibb-Carsley what risk would remain to the public now after OSRE’s emergency order last year barred Chandler from continuing to market the Murrayville development.
Gibb-Carsley replied that Chandler is involved in other property developments, and “the fact is that Mr. Chandler’s livelihood is as a property developer, and has been for, I believe, decades … I take your lordship’s point that if further activities with this property are no longer ongoing, what is the risk to the public? It may be from other properties.”
Justice Willcock said he did not consider Chandler a serious enough flight risk to deny his bail on those grounds, and that the risk to the public could be managed with strict bail conditions. He ordered Chandler’s interim release on a $500,000 surety, more than four years after Chandler was first arrested in 2013 in connection with the alleged California real estate investment scheme.
The criminal investigation is ongoing, court heard. Langley RCMP had previously told Postmedia that while no charges had been laid in connection with the Murrayville development, they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
Today, all 91 units of Murrayville House in the Township of Langley sit empty, more than two years after its originally anticipated move-in date. Some homebuyers have suffered personal and financial hardship as a result being unable to move into the homes they thought they had purchased, according to affidavits filed in support of civil lawsuits.
Dozens of Murrayville pre-sale contracts will be reviewed on an individual basis before a B.C. Supreme Court judge over five days next week.
J.P. Dhaliwal, the chief financial officer of Chandler’s company, observed Thursday’s court proceedings. When a Postmedia reporter asked him outside court how Chandler’s possible extradition could influence the company’s operations, Dhaliwal said: “No comment. Lots going on today.”