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Three Ontario residents accused of smuggling over 1.5 tonnes of cocaine into Canada

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Unlawfully importing cocaine charges follow bust last year involving $198M worth of the drug

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A yearlong investigation has resulted in charges against three individuals implicated in an international drug importation scheme that saw more than 1.5 tonnes of cocaine worth an estimated $198 million brought to Canada.

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Kicking off in the fall of 2021, the investigation involving the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Brantford Police Service and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada followed intelligence from the CBSA about exported shipments from Central America.

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The CBSA and RCMP teamed up to identify the shipments and individuals involved, notes an RCMP statement. Upon doing so, in December 2021, they began tracking a suspicious marine shipping container, imported by a resident in Brantford, Ont., en route to its final destination in Saint John, N.B.

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The decision proved fruitful, with border services officers in Saint John seizing over 1.5 tonnes of cocaine concealed within industrial machinery in January 2022. The confiscated cocaine was valued at $198 million.

Evidence was turned over to the Ontario RCMP for more investigation and two search warrants were executed in Brantford and New Hamburg earlier this week.

That resulted in three individuals — aged 35, 42 and 47 — being charged. Each man has been charged with unlawfully importing cocaine, while two of the men face a single count of conspiracy to import cocaine and the third accused faces a count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

The accused are scheduled to make court appearances on either Jan. 19 or 20.

“The considerable volume and value of this seizure represents a significant financial setback to the gangs and organized crime that victimize Canadians by trafficking in these harmful narcotics,” says Insp L. De Simone, officer in charge of the London and Kitchener detachments of the RCMP.

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“This accomplishment serves as a reminder of the importance role of financial intelligence in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime,” Barry MacKillop, deputy director of the FINTRAC’s Intelligence Sector, adds in the RCMP statement.

Importing a Schedule I, such as cocaine, or II substance is an indictable offence that is punishable by imprisonment for life, according to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

Citing data from the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey for 2017, “cocaine was the third most used substance after alcohol and cannabis (besides tobacco), for those above the age of 19 years old,” the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction reports.

The centre pointed out that while the percentage of cocaine use in the Canadian population, then at about two per cent, is low, the past-year rate in those aged 20 to 24 was increasing.

Additionally, “despite low prevalence of consumption, cocaine is responsible for the highest costs to the criminal justice system of any substance in Canada following alcohol,” the information adds.

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