It remains to be seen whether a tape recording at the centre of an extortion trial that involves the Nanaimo Hells Angels will be admitted as evidence.
An audio recording of a conversation between Nanaimo Hells Angels member Rajinder Sandhu and the alleged victim was played for the court on Thursday.
The victim - "Mr. H" - has his identity protected under a publication ban. The evidence has moved into a voir dire, a trial within a trial, as the self-represented Sandhu has taken issue with an audio tape that was made without his knowledge or consent.
Sandhu's position is that Mr. H acted as an agent of the state and obtained incriminating statements from him illegally.
The two met at a bar in Nanaimo during the spring of 2010 to discuss payment of a $2,500 debt Mr. H incurred in 1994. The amount owed had allegedly been inflated to $100,000 and Mr. H claimed to be under pressure by the Hells Angels to pay up.
"It's not going to go away," Sandhu tells Mr. H in the recording. "I can't make it go away." The victim was called to the stand by the Crown to relate his interpretations of the discussion.
He told the court how he hid an audio recorder in his pocket before the meeting. Sandhu could be heard on the tape asking Mr. H whether he was wearing a wire, which the victim denied.
The Crown made regular pauses to question Mr. H on his history with the Hells Angels.
He conceded that he had once been in business with Hells Angels member Fred Widdifield, whose separate trial in the extortion case was stayed in June due to delay. The Crown has said it will appeal that decision.
As the recorded discussion proceeds, Sandhu describes himself as a middle-man who is attempting to smooth over a dispute between Mr. H and the club.
"Basically, you're just getting punished, (Mr. H)," Sandhu says. "I do feel there's some tension with you and some of the guys."
Sandhu indicates that he has been instructed to "bash him out."
On the stand Mr. H described himself as a former associate of the Hells Angels, who had participated in the annual Vancouver Island Zeke Run motorcycle ride.
When asked by the Crown to elaborate on the recorded conversation, he said he felt pressured to pay up the debt.
"It wasn't an option," he said. "You're not going to go get police, or get help."
The voir dire will determine whether the recording can be admitted as evidence when the trial resumes.
Just prior to the commencement of Thursday's proceedings, the Crown cited precedent from a 1995 B.C. Court of Appeal decision that acknowledged evidence collected by illegal means might still be used in a trial.
Justice Robert Johnston advised Sandhu to treat the Crown's comments as a prelude to the voir dire arguments they might make.
Co-accused Jeffrey Andrew Benvin, not a member of the Hells Angels, also faces charges that include extortion and theft.
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