Montreal police are looking for a new base of operations for their anti-gang unit, three years after learning the force was renting a building from a convicted drug trafficker.

The force has been renting the building on Papineau Avenue in Rosemont since 1998, first as the location for Station 10 and later as the offices for its anti-gang unit.

Commander Ian Lafreniere said that in the 1990s perfoming background checks on the owners of people the force was considering doing business with was not routine

When the lease for that particular building came up for renewal in 2008 a check still was not performed because it was a renewal, and not considered a new relationship.

Lafreniere said a check on the building's owner was only performed in 2010, and it revealed he was Vincenzo Armeni, who is serving a 19 year sentence for drug trafficking.

However with three years left on the lease, Lafreniere said the force could not afford to move out.

"We would have been stuck for three years paying a lease to someone which would have been worse," said Lafreniere.

"This is the money of the citizens of Montreal."

The lease on the building expires in October 2013 and will not be renewed.

Police promise that the owner of the next building will be thoroughly vetted before the force moves.

However finding a property owner without criminal ties is surprisingly difficult. The force rents about 50 buildings across Montreal, and without naming an exact figure, Lafreniere said that it's common for background checks to turn up owners with shady histories.