June 16th, 2024

Trucker testifies he had no knowledge of drugs in trailer

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 12, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Calgary trucker caught with nearly 230 kilograms of methamphetamine after he arrived at the Coutts border in 2020, has no idea how the drugs got on his truck or where they came from, he testified Wednesday during his trial in Lethbridge Court of King’s Bench.

Amarpreet Singh Sandhu said he was confused when border officers checked inside his trailer load of bananas and saw several boxes sitting just inside the doors; boxes that, Sandhu testified, weren’t there when he picked up the produce a few days earlier from a warehouse in California.

“When I opened the door I just saw there were some boxes on the floor, and I was quite confused at how come these boxes are here,” Sandhu said through a Punjabi interpreter.

When asked by his lawyer, Allan Fay of Calgary, if he had ever seen the boxes, or put them in the trailer, allowed anyone else to put them in the trailer or had any idea how they got there, Sandhu simply answered “no.”

Sandhu, who is charged with drug smuggling and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, arrived at the Coutts border on the afternoon of Christmas day 2020. After answering a few preliminary questions by border officers, he was referred for a secondary inspection and told to open the doors to his trailer.

Sandhu testified he was not concerned about having officers search the trailer, but when he reached the back of his trailer he was confused because the doors were sealed with a bolt and not a plastic seal that was placed on them after the bananas were loaded in California.

After the 228 kilos of drugs were discovered, Sandhu was arrested and placed in custody, first at the border then again after he was transferred to Milk River and Lethbridge. He was finally released on bail nearly three weeks later on Jan. 14, 2021.

On Monday and Tuesday two border officers described their involvement in the drug bust and testified the methamphetamine was packed in nine boxes, none of which was hidden in the trailer.

The Crown concluded its case Tuesday following the officer’s evidence, and on Wednesday Sandhu spent most of the day testifying for the defence. He described his trip from Calgary to Los Angeles and back again, which included numerous stops at truck stops to eat, shower and sleep. At times he locked the cab of the truck when he was away from it, and other times he left it unlocked and the engine running, particularly when it was cold.

Sandhu pointed out when he arrived at one of the truck stops on the way home, he pushed the remote key fob to lock the doors, assuming it worked, but he was surprised to discover they were unlocked when he returned. He also testified that while it’s common practice for truckers to routinely check their vehicles while on the road, there were several times when he didn’t.

Sandhu, who testified he doesn’t speak English, said he was scared after he was arrested in Coutts because even though he knew border officers had found drugs, he didn’t understand what was going on. He said he asked many times for an interpreter, but one was not provided.

“I was so scared at that time,” he said. “I did not know what was happening.”

Fay concluded his case following Sandhu’s testimony, but the trial continues today with cross-examination by the Crown.

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