Attorney General of Ontario v. 2000 Mercedes Benz, 2012 ONSC 3182

This case involves a number of vehicles, a home, and bank accounts owned by the Defendants, Arif and Sanjida Syed. The provincial government established that there was a serious issue to be tried and thereby obtained an interim preservation order preventing the Defendants from selling the items in question. The Defendants argued that they were behind on their expenses and deeply in debt and should be allowed to access their equity in order to remedy this situation.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected the Defendants’ submission, stating that while the province’s Civil Remedies Act expressly allows Defendants to use equity in suspect property to finance their reasonable legal expenses, it does not contain such a provision for living expenses or the payment of debt. A key legislative intent of the Civil Remedies Act, the court observed, is to preserve the value of property that may be subject to forfeiture, and allowing Defendants to use their equity for living expenses pending a trial would clearly subvert this goal.

This case demonstrates that the mere existence of a civil forfeiture action against a piece of property can tie up the equity in that property for years at a time, often prejudicing the ability of defendants to mount a defence.

Decided by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on June 6, 2012.
Click here for the full text of the decision.

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