By Nick Kuhl on November 30, 2019.
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
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
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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