June 14th, 2024

Crown recommends 12-15 sentence for couple guilty of drug smuggling

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on February 5, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A California couple caught smuggling drugs into Alberta four years ago could face more than a dozen years in prison if a judge agrees with a Crown recommendation.
Crown Prosecutors Kent Brown and Domenic Puglia have recommended Gurminder and Kirandeep Toor receive a sentence of 12-15 years in a federal penitentiary for trying to smuggle 84 kilograms of cocaine through the Coutts border on Dec. 2, 2017.
The couple was found guilty of drug smuggling following a week-long jury trial last April. Gurminder was also found guilty of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, for which the Crown is seeking a concurrent sentence of eight to 10 years. Kirandeep was also charged with possession for the purpose, but was found guilty of the lesser and included offence of simple drug possession, for which the Crown is seeking a concurrent sentence of three years in prison.
Calgary lawyer Greg Dunn has recommended a global sentence of nine to 10 years  for his client, Gurminder, while Calgary lawyer Patrick Fagan believes Kirandeep, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, should be granted a conditional sentence of two years less a day, which she could serve in the community.
Although the Criminal Code does not permit a conditional sentence for offences punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 14 years or life, Fagan argued that provision of the Code is unconstitutional. During a hearing last month he asked Madam Justice Johnna Kubik to strike it down.
“The Ontario Supreme Court justices struck down the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code, and the Ontario Court of appeal has struck down the offending CSO sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code,” Fagan said on Jan. 6. “I expect this court to strike down those provisions, as well.”
The Toors were transporting produce from California to Airdrie, Alta., and testified during trial they were surprised when border officers found 84 bricks of cocaine hidden inside their commercial truck after they arrived at the Coutts border.
The drugs were worth about $5 million if sold by the kilogram, and even more if broken down for sale on the street.
Border officers discovered the cocaine in the truck’s sleeper, where the drugs were stashed in and behind a microwave oven, in a drawer, under a blanket on the bottom bunk bed, and under a mattress on the upper bunk. Yet the accused said they had no idea there were drugs in the truck.
Fagan argued the Crown failed to prove Kirandeep knew there was cocaine in the tractor-trailer, and never should have been charged. Dunn argued it’s “not unreasonable” to believe Gurminder didn’t notice the drugs in the sleeper of the truck.
Fagan reminded the judge during the couple’s sentencing hearing Friday, that Kirandeep does not have a criminal record, and according to the jury, she’s not a drug trafficker. He also said that even though the principles of sentencing include the need to protect society, impose just sanctions, and separate offenders from society if necessary, “it is not necessary, in my respectful submission, to send Mrs. Toor to a federal institution.”
Dunn argued that the Crown’s s range of 12-15 years in prison is too high in this case, and referred to several cases in which offenders in similar circumstances received lower sentences. He noted the method of smuggling was unsophisticated and there were not any weapons or violence involved in the offence, and he pointed out Gurminder is not part of a criminal organization, all of which would be considered aggravating and warrant a longer sentence.
Dunn also asked the judge to consider the collateral consequences of Gurminder’s offence, and said it will break up his family, create financial hardship, and likely result in his wife’s deportation to India because she is only in the U.S. on a Green Card to become a permanent resident, which expired in 2018.
Brown rebutted defence arguments for lower sentences, however, and said the Alberta Court of Appeal has made it clear that a courier is an integral part of any importation and trafficking scheme, and since cocaine only comes from outside of Canada, it has to be imported by a courier or mule.
“In this case that’s what Mr. Toor is,” Brown said. “He is as integral as any other party.”
Brown also suggested Kirandeep was no less involved.
“Mrs. Toor knew full well that she was in a tractor trailer with 84 kilos of cocaine hidden all through the living compartment of that tractor trailer. She knew everything about the importation of that cocaine.”
She not only knew about it, she was involved, Brown added. 
“The Crown is arguing that Kirandeep Toor is a mule, she is a courier. She is a person involved in the importation of cocaine. That is her role, and it is important to remember how important that role is to an overall scheme of getting cocaine into Canada.”
Justice Kubik is set to give her decision on sentencing and the Constitutional challenge on April 13.

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