October 21st, 2020

Crown concludes case in drug-smuggling trial


By Nick Kuhl on November 30, 2019.

Delon Shurtz


Lethbridge Herald


dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com


The Crown prosecuting a man on trial for drug smuggling was expected 
to conclude his case Friday in a Lethbridge courtroom, but not before 
calling more witnesses to testify they had nothing to do with trying 
to import 34 packages of cocaine into Alberta in 2016.
About 37 Crown witnesses have testified since the trial began two 
weeks ago, most of whom are civilians who told court they were not 
involved in the smuggling scheme and didn’t know anything about it 
until several months later when they were questioned by police.
Crown prosecutor Dennis Hrabcak has attempted to eliminate as suspects 
anyone who could have been involved in trying to smuggle the drugs 
over the Coutts border crossing, which would leave the accused as the 
sole perpetrator.
Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu was arrested Sept. 4, 2016, after he arrived 
at the Coutts border crossing in a commercial truck loaded with 
Halloween costumes. Concealed within the load were 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 next Friday.
In addition to police and customs officials, most of the Crown’s 
witnesses are civilians, many of whom worked at Underwraps Costumes in 
California — where the shipment of costumes originated — and Famous 
Toys in Edmonton, where the shipment was destined to arrive.
Several witnesses testified Friday that while they worked at the 
Famous Toys warehouse in Edmonton or at the attached store, Halloween 
Alley, in September 2016, they knew nothing about a shipment of drugs. 
They noted, however, many workers would have had access to shipments 
after they were unloaded at the warehouse, and no one was specifically 
assigned to the task of unpacking boxes and shelving products.
“To my recollection, it was anybody who was available at the time,” 
said Amber Peterson, a sales associate at the time who also helped 
unpack shipments of boxes and inventory products.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Brij Mohan, some witnesses, 
who admitted they used drugs themselves at some point in their lives, 
testified that occasionally shipments of boxes would not be opened 
immediately after arriving, and possibly not for a day or two. And not 
all areas in the warehouse where boxes were stored were visible to 
employees.
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 and to retrieve them once they 
arrived in Edmonton.
Defence is expected to begin its case Monday or Tuesday, but Mohan has 
not said whether his client will testify.


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