Vancouver lab owner named in Chinese fentanyl syndicate by U.S. Government, skirted Canadian laws
Exclusive analysis: Bobby Shah and his wife, deceased realtor Ramina Shah, slipped a Canadian civil forfeiture and fentanyl seizure case on a Charter of Rights defence
The Biden administration’s sweeping attack on global fentanyl trafficking syndicates emanating from Chinese factories has also implicated Canada’s central involvement, singling out a Vancouver drug lab owner, whose realtor wife was stabbed to death in 2022, after the couple evaded a British Columbia civil forfeiture case that saw seizures of fentanyl, cocaine, chemical precursors, and a drug press, along with their mountainside mansion and luxury vehicles.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced numerous indictments and Treasury Department sanctions against 28 people and companies, including eight chemical companies in China, their executives and alleged Chinese transnational drug-trafficking bosses.
The indictments charge a web of chemical factories across China, from Wuhan to Anhui and Hubei and Jiangsu, and reveal how the traffickers running these companies have sold fentanyl precursors to undercover D.E.A. agents requesting shipments into Mexican drug labs.
While the Sinaloa Cartel is a major distributor for Chinese fentanyl ravaging American communities and causing tens of thousands of deaths annually, the only major targets outside mainland China named in the D.E.A.’s new investigations are Vancouver-area convict Bahman Djebelibak, 41, and his Port Coquitlam-based lab and chemical distribution facilities.
“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced,” Garland said at a press conference in Washington, billed as a “message on behalf of the U.S. government” to China and anyone else involved in “trafficking of fentanyl at every stage and in every part of the world.”
“We know that this network includes the cartels’ leaders, their drug traffickers, their money launderers, their clandestine lab operators, their security forces, their weapons suppliers, and their chemical suppliers,” Garland continued. “And we know that this global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China.”
One of the Chinese companies sanctioned by the Treasury Department, Jinhu Minsheng Pharmaceutical Machinery, has allegedly been selling pill press machines used to manufacture counterfeit oxycodone, case records say.
“A major customer of Jinhu Minsheng’s is Western Canada-based Valerian Labs, Inc., which is led by Canadian national Bahman Djebelibak,” documents cited by Garland say.
The records allege Djebelibak, aka Bobby Shah, is a major actor in Chinese fentanyl syndicate networks, and he is accountable for “the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.”
The U.S. government is seeking Djebelibak’s arrest and the charges have not been proven yet in court, documents say.
These records charge that Djebelibak and his Port Coquitlam-based lab, also known as Hollywood Vape Labs, sought to procure “2,000 liters of chloroform, 800 liters of dichloromethane, and 200 kg of iodine, substances used in the production of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine.”
The records add, “notably, Valerian Labs Distribution Corp. has imported chemicals from Hebei Guanlang [another] member of the Syndicate targeted.”
The Bureau’s review of Canadian legal records finds that Djebelibak and his deceased wife, Ramina Shah, were caught up in March 2018 federal police raids of Valerian Labs and the couple’s suburban-Vancouver mansion, which led to a failed B.C. civil forfeiture action.
The case was dismissed in 2021 after B.C. provincial Judge David St. Pierre found police searches had violated the couple’s Charter rights.
There is no indication, however, that St. Pierre balanced his decision by considering the stunning killing power of the fentanyl, chemical precursors and lab equipment allegedly discovered by police, as they executed search warrants stemming from a financial fraud probe against Djebelibak.
At the couple’s $2.9 million mountainside mansion in Maple Ridge, officers seized a Land Rover, a Porsche and a 2006 Pontiac G6, fraudulently registered to one of Djebelibak’s associates, who was involved in Djebelibak’s scheme of trading cash and luxury items for cheques, Canadian court records say.
In a hidden compartment of the Pontiac, officers found about two kilograms of fentanyl, a one-kilo brick of cocaine, and chemicals used to cut cocaine for street dealing.
Officers also found axes in Djebelibak’s mansion, one of which was kept in the couple’s bedroom.
During searches of the mansion and Valerian Labs, officers also discovered pieces of gold and silver jewellery and suspected drug-trafficking paraphernalia, including “score sheets” and cellphones, a hydraulic press covered in drug residue, blank cheques and bank cards in the names of other people, a credit card machine and printer, and money transfer papers.
Police also found a “5-gallon drum of sodium borohydride, which can be used as a cutting agent for controlled substances such as ecstasy, located behind stacks of containers at Hollywood Vape Labs,” B.C. civil forfeiture records say.
The provincial judge — in hindsight perhaps foolishly — gave the benefit of the doubt to the couple, on how they earned a living.