Surrey RCMP are recommending charges of drug trafficking against the supervisor of a drug recovery house after they found $50,000 in cash and illicit drugs on the property, CTV News has learned.

Former Sikh activist Amrit Rai was arrested at Freedom for Life Recovery House on May 18 and police seized the money and heroin, adding another twist to his storied life and casting doubt among those in the recovery business about whether addicts seeking help can get it from this unregulated facility in Surrey.

“There was a substantial amount of cash, various illicit drugs seized in the search warrant,” said Surrey Cpl. Drew Grainger. “Certainly not the type of environment that a recovery house should be presenting to people going to a service such as that for help.”

When contacted by CTV News, Rai admitted he was arrested at the facility on 106 Avenue after police found a point of heroin and $50,000.

But he said he’s not a drug dealer and the house is a place for addicts to get better.

“In our community we carry cash a lot. Every house has cash, all the time,” he said, claiming the money belonged to the society that operates the house.

As for the heroin, he said clients sometimes relapse and bring drugs in, despite his best attempts to prevent it. He said it must have been something he missed during his sweeps of the house.

“One point of heroin doesn’t make me a trafficker. I don’t use. I don’t sell. One point was found in the house -- you could find that anywhere. I don’t want that in my house. I might have missed it,” he said.

But Jim O’Rourke of Vision Quest Recovery House, also in Surrey, said he had never heard of a recovery house having that much cash.

“Fifty thousand dollars?” he asked. “You don’t get $50,000 cash in them. You get a cheque from welfare that goes to the bank to pay for food.”

Drug recovery houses have been unregulated since 2001, when the BC Liberal government changed the Community Care Facility Act. That created a class of facility called supportive recovery residences, which require no provincial licence to operate.

The provincial government announced last month it was going to create a recovery house registry, but O’Rourke said he has seen little progress. If a regulation scheme involved regular inspections, searches would be more regular, he said.

“The RCMP did a great job with the tools they had. If they would have had a proper regulatory body they wouldn’t have taken as much time,” he said.

Rai was once associated with the International Sikh Youth Federation, which was eventually banned in Canada because of its declared war against the Indian state.

Rai said when he wanted to open up a dialogue with the Indian government, he was branded a traitor by the group and had marital problems that led to his addiction. He lived on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and dropped in weight from 275 lbs. to 138 lbs., spending his $350,000 in savings on his drug habit.

Those problems led him to walk into a TD Bank in 2006 and rob $700 from the teller. He was sent to jail and kicked his addiction; he said he did his last drugs four-and-a-half years ago.

Rai is surprisingly open about his past, and said he has nothing to hide from the police if the charges are approved and they do end up in court.

“I had to rob a bank for my addiction,” he said. “I don’t want to do that any more. I’m following my religion. I want to be faithful to my religion.”

Crown counsel have yet to approve the charges and none of the allegations have been proven in court.