By Delon Shurtz on November 28, 2020.
A 41-year-old Calgary truck driver accused of trying to smuggle drugs into Alberta from the U.S. says he has no idea how 50 kilograms of methamphetamine ended up in his truck last year.
Asif Mir, who was on trial this week in Lethbridge provincial court, said Thursday he was surprised when Coutts border officers arrested him after they found 33 packages of meth hidden in the sleeper of his semi truck when he arrived at the port of entry July 28, 2019.
“I don’t know where it comes from,” he told the arresting officer. “I’m shocked.”
Mir, who is charged with one count each of smuggling and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, testified he didn’t know there were drugs in his truck, and his first thought was that the border officers were lying. He said he never agreed with anyone to smuggle drugs and could not offer an explanation after they were found in a box under some dirty clothes in a closet, and in a large duffel bag under the bottom bunk bed.
Mir had picked up a load of meat from Brooks, which he delivered to a sausage company in California. He drove south through Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada, before turning east to Burbank, Calif. He then picked up another load for the return trip to Canada, but had mechanical trouble and stopped overnight for repairs. In the meantime, another semi truck picked up his loaded trailer and replaced it with an empty one.
Mir testified he couldn’t remember where in California he delivered his first load, and he had trouble remembering where he stopped to rest during both legs of the trip. He confirmed, however, that he was legally required to stop every 11 hours for 10 hours of rest. He also stopped for gas, to shower and eat, but he locked his truck each time he left it, although he left his keys with the mechanic after his truck broke down.
When he arrived at the Coutts border, he was directed to a warehouse for a secondary inspection. During a search of his cab, officers found six bags of meth in a cardboard box hidden under clothes in a closet, and 27 bags of meth in a duffel bag hidden under the bottom bunk bed
Mir explained he routinely threw his dirty clothes on a bucket in the closet, but he couldn’t explain how the box ended up in the closet, instead, or what happened to the bucket.
Three other buckets containing heavy tire chains had been placed in front of the bottom bunk, and obscured the duffel bag beneath. The bed sheet also hung down, hiding the duffel bag, but Mir said that is how he always kept the sheet, even though a border officer testified truckers generally tuck their sheets under the mattress so they can access the jockey box below.
The accused testified he stores the buckets in his cab because there isn’t any room for the chains in the jockey box, which is normally accessed from outside the truck. He said he never checks under the bed when he’s in the truck, and didn’t even know it could be raised, even though border officers easily lifted it to reveal the duffel bag of drugs.
During closing arguments Thursday, Crown Prosecutor Kent Brown said the only rational conclusion the court can draw is that Mir knew the drugs were in the truck and his evidence, including his testimony about the bed, should be rejected.
“Mr. Mir is lying about that evidence,” Brown said.
Brown reminded the judge that Mir also lied to the first officer he met at the border when he was asked if he had any repairs done on his truck. Mir admitted he lied and said he didn’t want to pay GST on the repair work. He was also worried that because his truck often requires repairs, if he revealed it had to be repaired during the trip, he would not be allowed to drive it in the U.S. until thousands of dollars in repairs were completed.
Calgary lawyer Allan Fay said the only real issue is whether Mir knew the drugs were in the truck. He said the Crown’s case is based on circumstantial evidence and it is not unreasonable to believe someone else could have hidden the drugs in the truck, with the intention to have them removed after it arrived in Calgary.
Fay said Mir’s fingerprints were not found on the packages of drugs and there isn’t any evidence to prove he knew they were hidden in his truck.
The CBSA reported in a news release a few days after the bust that the 50 kg of drugs seized is equal to about 500,000 doses worth about $3 million. Brown noted during the trial the drugs as packaged when found by border officials, were worth about $1.5 million. The packages were also covered in red powder, possibly a spice, meant to throw sniffer dogs off the scent.
Although the trial has concluded, a decision has been adjourned to allow time for the judge to review the case and submissions from the Crown and defence. The matter is scheduled to return to court Dec. 14 when date will likely be set for the decision.
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