By Shurtz, Delon on November 28, 2019.
One after another, witnesses took the stand in a Lethbridge courtroom Wednesday and denied any involvement in an attempt to smuggle drugs over the border three years ago.
The witnesses, three of some 37 witnesses the Crown will have called to testify by the time it concludes its case Friday, all said they had nothing to do with the $2 million worth of cocaine that was intercepted at the Coutts border in 2016. And that’s exactly what Crown prosecutor Dennis Hrabcak expected them to say.
The Crown’s case is pretty much one of elimination. Hrabcak is eliminating as suspects anyone who may have had any involvement in a shipment of Halloween costumes that left Underwraps Costumes in California in late August 2016 and arrived at a Famous Toys warehouse in Edmonton.
The Crown hopes to prove that Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu was the only one who could have hidden cocaine inside two boxes that were part of the larger shipment of costumes.
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 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. His jury trial in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench began Nov. 18 and is scheduled to run until Dec. 6.
Chrystal Allen, an operations supervisor at Famous Toys in 2016, testified Wednesday she was responsible for printing orders and preparing them to be picked up and shipped to other stores. She said she didn’t handle any of the inventory or merchandise, and didn’t know anything about the drugs found in a trailer until a manager told her.
“I was told a trailer was stopped at the border and it was going to be delayed,” she testified.
When Hrabcak asked if she was involved with the shipment of cocaine, had any knowledge about it, or had been asked by anyone to import cocaine, she simply said no. And that was the response by two other witnesses who testified during the morning and said they only found out about the drugs after they were told by someone else.
Although the accused’s lawyer, Brij Mohan, asked the Crown witnesses general questions about their responsibilities, the warehouse and other employees, he focused primarily on their knowledge of a former employee’s boyfriend who, Mohan said, had been busted for cocaine trafficking and sent to prison for 14 months.
Candace Karen Anderson, who was a packer at the Famous Toys warehouse in 2016, said she met the woman’s boyfriend during a Christmas sale at the warehouse but she didn’t know he was later charged with drug trafficking.
“I knew he had gone to jail, but I didn’t know specifically for what,” Anderson testified.
She also couldn’t remember the year she met him, or whether it was before or after September 2016.
Former warehouse worker Frederick Brophy said he also met the former employee’s boyfriend; once when he picked up his girlfriend from work and afterward when they went for drinks. But he was unable to tell court anything about him, including his race.
“He’s not from Mexico, is he?” asked Mohan.
Defence maintains Sandhu didn’t know the drugs were in the trailer, and there had been plenty of opportunities for someone else put the drugs in the shipment of costumes.
The Crown believes Sandhu was the only one involved in trying to smuggle the drugs into Canada, and he was the only occupant of the truck when it arrived at the border en route for Edmonton.
The trial is scheduled to continue today.
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