Fact checked by Wilbur Thompson.
The province of Ontario has commenced its legal battle to retain the $40 million worth of assets seized from an alleged illegal gambling ring. The case centers on how $270,000 ended up in the possession of a Mississauga man, Dimitris Kellesis. His lawyer argues that there is no evidence linking him to the gambling ring and that the money came from gifts, loan repayments, and savings accumulated over many years of work for a family that distrusted banks. However, the province maintains that Kellesis’ association with the ring warrants the forfeiture of the assets.
This hearing is the first in a series of legal proceedings as Canadian authorities seek to retain assets that include money, precious metals, jewelry, high-end vehicles, and luxury homes that were seized from what police describe as the largest illegal online sports gambling ring in Canada. Law enforcement officials allege that the elaborate operation controlled at least 14 sports-betting websites, generating over $160 million in revenue over six years before being dismantled and assets seized. However, the case has floundered in court, with most charges against the alleged ringleaders withdrawn in the past year.
The Canadian government is now fighting to keep most of the seized assets under Ontario’s forfeiture law, which has seen an increase in use in recent years to seize assets linked to illegal activities. This law allows authorities to seize assets even when a specific individual cannot be proven to have committed a crime. It plays a significant role in deterring illegal activities and recovering the proceeds of crime.
According to Canadian authorities’ documents filed earlier to keep the assets, investigators began monitoring a Mississauga unit in October 2018, identifying four partners involved in the gaming house, including Kellesis. He reportedly showed up almost every day to lock and unlock the doors and transferred profits to the organization’s leaders through another individual who exchanged bags believed to hold the operation’s profits with other people who would later be charged. Police obtained search warrants for Silver Creek and Kellesis’s Mississauga home, where they arrested him and found $270,000 bundled with elastic bands, electronic devices, and debt lists. Although the existence of the alleged gambling ring has not been proven in court, Canadian authorities are seeking to retain the seized assets under the province’s forfeiture law.