October 23rd, 2020

RCMP sure they nabbed right man


By Shurtz, Delon on November 21, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Like the old adage, the Mounties always get their man, RCMP officer Gordon Wiebe believes they have the right man in a three-year-old drug-smuggling case.

Wiebe, testifying Wednesday in the drug-smuggling trial for Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, disagreed with the accused’s lawyer when he suggested officers charged the wrong man after Sandhu was stopped at the Coutts border crossing in September 2016.

“You may have missed the real culprit,” Brij Mohan suggested.

Mohan pointed out Wiebe and other investigators failed to interview individuals who may have had contact with the shipment before or after it left Underwraps Costumes in California in late August 2016, which allowed the real criminal to get away.

Wiebe testified about five people who would have had access to the shipment in the U.S. were interviewed, as were about 26 people who would have had access to the shipment once it arrived at Famous Toys in Edmonton, but none of them were involved in the smuggling operation.

Mohan, however, said police only arrived at that conclusion after witnesses denied any involvement, but he doubts the person responsible for placing the drugs in the shipment would have admitted it.

Sandhu was arrested Sept. 4, 2016 after he arrived at the Coutts border crossing in a commercial truck loaded with costumes. Concealed within the load were 34 packages of cocaine, weighing nearly 40 kilograms and worth between $1 million and $2.4 million.

Sandhu is charged with single counts of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawfully importing drugs, and his trial in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench is scheduled to run until Dec. 6.

Mohan has repeatedly suggested someone else planted the drugs in the shipment of costumes – he even mentioned the name Parmjit Rai – and pointed out police failed to interview enough people, including janitors who may have had access to the shipment.

Sandhu’s truck also broke down Aug. 31, 2016, and the unsealed trailer was parked on the street for three days while the truck was being repaired. Wiebe admitted he never thought about the security of the trailer while it was parked on the street, but he rejected Mohan’s suggestion that the “real culprit” could have tampered with the load at that time.

Wiebe said it’s too much of a stretch to believe someone randomly placed the drugs in the trailer after it broke down, and then hoped they would somehow end up in Edmonton.

Defence maintains Sandhu didn’t know the drugs were in the trailer, and Wiebe and a previous Crown witness testified investigators didn’t find the accused’s fingerprints or DNA on the boxes.

But during the Crown’s opening remarks to the jury Tuesday, Dennis Hrabcak said Sandhu was the only occupant of the truck when it arrived at the border en route for Edmonton, and evidence will show the costume company was not involved in the importation of the drugs.

The Crown anticipates calling about 38 witnesses in the first two weeks of the trial. Mohan, on the other and, has not indicated how many defence witnesses he plans to call.

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