By Shurtz, Delon on December 3, 2019.
Defence points finger at owner of truck company in drug-smuggling trial
Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, on trial for smuggling cocaine over the U.S. border into Alberta three years ago, had no idea drugs were hidden in his truck trailer, a witness testified Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench.
“He had no knowledge about drugs,” Amandeep Uppal told court during his lengthy testimony before a jury.
But he knows who did, and he pointed the finger directly at his boss, Parmjit Rai, owner and operator of Interprovince Logistics of Surrey, B.C.
“He’s linked to drug dealers, he’s linked to drug traffickers,” Uppal testified.
Uppal said Rai told him he used his trucks to haul drugs, but Sandhu didn’t know that’s what he was carrying inside a load he had picked up in Sacramento, Calif.
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 began Nov. 18 and is scheduled to run until Friday.
The Crown concluded its case last Friday, after two weeks of testimony by some 37 Crown witnesses, most of whom are civilians and were working for Underwraps Costumes in California – where the shipment of costumes originated – and Famous Toys in Edmonton, where the shipment was destined to arrive.
Crown prosecutor Dennis Hrabcak focused his case on eliminating 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.
Defence lawyer Brij Mohan, on the other hand, maintains his client knew nothing about the drug shipment, and told court at the start of the trial two weeks ago that Rai (pronounced rye) was the culprit.
“Rai is the guy,” he said during his opening statement to the jury and Justice D.K. Miller.
Uppal, who was brought in by the court – not the Crown or defence – to testify, worked as a dispatcher for Rai, and said that after Sandhu was caught with drugs at the border, Rai not only admitted he was smuggling, but he and another man, Opinder Bajwa, threatened to kill him if he told the police.
“Don’t be a snitch,” they told him. “If you rat on anyone you are dead meat.”
Uppal said he eventually quit and moved to Eastern Canada in 2017, and has only seen his wife and child a few times since then during brief visits to B.C. His parents also moved to avoid being caught by Bajwa’s “crew” of drug dealers.
During questioning by the Crown, Uppal admitted he didn’t quit right away, but continued working so he could learn more about the company’s involvement in drug smuggling, He also admitted he never told police during a statement he gave them Sept. 15, 2016, everything Rai and Bajwa told him about the operation. But he told police in December 2018, after Bajwa died in a truck accident and he no longer felt threatened.
“As long as I kept my mouth shut I wasn’t in danger.”
Court was told Uppal had to sue Rai for several months of back pay, yet he still hasn’t been paid. But he’s not angry, he added, and believes in Karma.
Hrabcak suggested, however, Uppal is angry, angry enough to blame Rai for the drug smuggling.
The trial is scheduled to continue today, although defence is not certain it will call evidence.
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