June 22nd, 2024

Drug smuggling trial adjourned for witness rebuttal

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 14, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

The trial for a Calgary trucker accused of trying to smuggle drugs into Alberta two years ago, has been adjourned until next week while the Crown prepares to subpoena a witness to rebut defence evidence.

Although Crown Prosecutor Kent Brown concluded his case this week in Lethbridge Court of King’s Bench, he will be allowed to call an additional witness to rebut evidence provided by the accused, which may have indirectly implicated his boss.

The judge granted the Crown’s request to call rebuttal evidence, and the trial has been adjourned until Tuesday when Gurpreet Ghuman of JKS Transport in Calgary is expected to attend court in person.

Brown told Judge Vaughan Hartigan Friday that the witness is “reluctant” to attend the trial, and asked if Ghuman could testify by video link. Calgary lawyer Allan Fay opposed the request, however, and said Ghuman should attend in person. Hartigan agreed.

Amarpreet Singh Sandhu was charged with drug importation and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking after he was caught with nearly 228 kilograms of methamphetamine when he arrived at the Coutts border on Christmas Day in 2020. The maximum penalty for drug smuggling is life in prison.

Sandhu testified this week that he has no idea how the drugs got on his truck or where they came from, and said he was confused when border officers checked inside his trailer load of bananas and found nine boxes sitting in plain view just inside the doors. He told the officers the boxes weren’t there when he picked up the produce a few days earlier from a supplier 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 testified through a Punjabi interpreter.

Sandhu said he wasn’t concerned about having officers search the trailer, but when he reached the back of his trailer he was surprised to see the doors secured with a bolt instead of a plastic seal that was placed on them after the bananas had been loaded.

Sandhu spent most of the day Wednesday describing 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 he pushed the remote key fob to lock the doors, assuming it worked, but he was surprised to learn they were unlocked when he returned. He also testified that while it’s common practice for truckers to regularly check their vehicles while on the road, there were several times when he didn’t.

After the 228 kilos of drugs were discovered, Sandhu was arrested and spent time in custody at the border, in the Town of Milk River and Lethbridge before he was finally released on bail nearly three weeks later on Jan. 14, 2021.

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