October 23rd, 2020

Costume boxes contained cocaine

By Shurtz, Delon on November 20, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald


Two boxes put on display in a Lethbridge courtroom Tuesday only contain Halloween costumes, but customs officers found more than ghosts and goblins when they opened the boxes three years ago after they arrived in a shipment at the Coutts border crossing.

RCMP officer Paul Broadhead, testifying for the Crown during a drug-smuggling case in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench, told the judge and jury the two boxes also contained cocaine.

Broadhead was the officer assigned to be custodian of evidence, gathered after a commercial truck with a load of novelty items arrived at the border in September 2016. Authorities reported at the time that concealed within the load were 34 packages of cocaine, weighing about 40 kilograms and worth between $1 million and $2.4 million.

The driver of the truck, Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, was arrested and is on trial for the next three weeks on charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawfully importing drugs.

Broadhead testified the two boxes were examined by forensic experts, who, among other things, also tested for fingerprints. But under cross-examination by the accused’s lawyer, Brij Mohan, he said neither the accused’s fingerprints nor DNA were found on the boxes.

During his opening remarks at the start of the trial Tuesday, Mohan told the jury the case is “all about common sense,” and whether his client knew the drugs were in his truck. He said he will solve a puzzle containing only four words: “Rai (pronounced rye) is the guy.” Then during his cross-examination of the officer, he asked if forensic examiners found that individual’s fingerprints or DNA on the boxes.

Broadhead said since he wasn’t the primary investigator he doesn’t know if another individual’s fingerprints were found on the boxes. He admitted he had heard the name Rai, but only knew him as the owner of the trailer in which the drugs were found.

During the Crown’s opening remarks to the jury, Dennis Hrabcak said Sandhu was the only occupant of the truck when it arrived at the border en route for Edmonton. He said jurors will realize from evidence that the costume company was not involved in the importation of the drugs.

The trial is scheduled to run until Dec. 6.

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