April 12th, 2024

Three accused smugglers going to trial next year

By Lethbridge Herald on October 21, 2023.

Delon Shurtz
Lethbridge Herald

Three men accused of trying to smuggle drugs over the border within the last year are set to stand trial next year, while one other man is preparing for a preliminary inquiry.

The 26-year-old Calgary man accused of trying to smuggle more than $5 million worth of cocaine into Alberta late last year has chosen to be tried by a Court of King’s Bench judge and jury, and to have a preliminary inquiry.

Lethbridge lawyer Cara Lebenzon made the election Thursday in Lethbridge court of justice on behalf of the accused, Jagroop Singh. Lebenzon, who was acting as agent for Singh’s lawyer, Scott Hadford, said the preliminary inquiry will likely take more than one day to run, which will require a pre-preliminary conference to discuss issues and schedule a date for the actual preliminary inquiry.

A preliminary inquiry is typically held to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

Singh is charged with single counts under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of drug importation and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking.

On Nov. 21, 2022, officers with the Canada Border Services Agency seized 53 kg of cocaine following a search of a commercial transport vehicle at the Coutts border crossing.

 The drugs, worth about $5.3 million on the street, were hidden within a shipment of produce and turned over to IBET, the Integrated Border Enforcement Team, for further investigation.

IBET is a joint force operation between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency, and Calgary Police Service.

“I cannot overstate the contributions of each law enforcement partner represented in IBET,” Supt Sean Boser of Federal Policing said in a news release following Singh’s arrest. 

“Together, we successfully prevented harmful drugs from entering Canada and harming our communities.”

Barely two weeks before the drug bust, another Calgary man was charged with identical offences.

On Nov. 6 a commercial transport truck arrived at the border with a shipment of bananas.

 A secondary examination was initiated by border officials, who discovered 43 kg of cocaine hidden inside the load of fruit.

The following day, Gurkirat Singh, 27, of Calgary, was charged with single counts of importing drugs and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking. On June 8 Singh’s lawyer, Lisa Jean Helps of Vancouver, B.C., pleaded not guilty on his behalf to both charges, and he is set to stand trial on his charges April 22-26, 2024 in Lethbridge court of justice.

Earlier this year two men were similarly charged after a commercial vehicle that was searched at the border on April 17 was found carrying 245 kilograms of methamphetamine.

Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu and Harmanpreet Singh Sidhu were released from custody three days later on $1,000 bail each and several conditions. 

They are scheduled to stand trial for one week beginning June 17, 2024.

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