Crown presses Costa in cocaine smug­gling case

Wine store owner de­nies any in­volve­ment

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MARK MCNEIL mm­c­neil@thes­pec.com 905-526-4687 | @Markatthes­pec

The co-owner of a Can­non Street East wine store stead­fastly de­nied sug­ges­tions from a Crown pros­e­cu­tor that he was in­volved in a $6-mil­lion drug-im­port­ing scheme that con­cealed cocaine in jugs of pineap­ple juice.

“I’m go­ing to sug­gest you saw it as a way to make some money,” the pros­e­cu­tor Geoffrey Roy said. “No way,” Joe Costa replied. Costa faces im­port­ing and traf­fick­ing charges with his wife and busi­ness part­ner, Erika Costa, along with their friend, Tul­lio Dintino.

“You thought the worst thing that could hap­pen is you would lose your im­port­ing li­cence,” Roy said. “No way, sir, ” Costa said. Tues­day was Costa’s third day on the stand, and he stood by his story that he had no idea the De­cem­ber 2015 ship­ment — ar­ranged by co-ac­cused Dintino us­ing Costa’s im­por­ta­tion li­cence — was car­ry­ing cocaine.

Court pre­vi­ously heard that Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices Agency of­fi­cers in Hal­i­fax dis­cov­ered cocaine in some of the jugs in a ship­ping con­tainer on Dec. 18, 2015. Fur­ther tests re­vealed the ship­ment con­tained more than 100 kilo­grams worth of cocaine.

The RCMP re­placed co­cainelaced jugs with water and launched a sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tion to track the ship­ment to its des­ti­na­tion in Hamilton.

The day the ship­ment ar­rived in Hamilton, po­lice video­taped skids be­ing re­moved from a truck with Costa driv­ing a fork lift and Dintino look­ing on. Costa and his wife run Costa’s Wine Coun­try Inc.

Roy sug­gested the ship­ment in De­cem­ber came af­ter a trial run pineap­ple juice ship­ment some weeks be­fore that Dintino had ar­ranged. Both ship­ments car­ried la­bels for Costa’s com­pany, some­thing that deeply con­cerned Costa.

Costa said he didn’t want his com­pany’s name on it be­cause “it was not my prod­uct,” whereas the Crown con­tended that Costa was ac­tu­ally try­ing to dis­tance him­self from the cocaine.

A large por­tion of the first ship­ment never sold and was sit­ting in un­re­frig­er­ated ware­house space owned by Costa be­cause “no one cared about sell­ing it be­cause it was just a test,” Roy said.

But Costa said he didn’t have any­thing to do with the pineap­ple juice, un­der­stood it was sup­posed to have been pre-sold and “it was not my prod­uct to sell.”

Roy in­sisted that all along Costa knew about the cocaine, to which Costa replied, “My busi­ness does well. We do not need to go into the cocaine busi­ness.”

Costa’s lawyer, Dean Pa­que­tte, brought 10 character wit­nesses to tes­tify on the Costa’s be­half.

They all said the Costas were ex­tremely hon­est, gen­er­ous to a fault and would do al­most any­thing to help peo­ple in dis­tress.

Joe Costa fre­quently al­lowed his friends to store items — such as more than 2,000 square feet of floor tiles — in his ware­house for free, some of the wit­nesses said.

Long­time friend Grace Medeiros said: “I don’t know any­one who has as much in­tegrity as Joe and Erika ...(they are) the clos­est you can get to heaven on Earth and that is God’s hon­est truth.” Friend Nuno Costa said, “I don’t be­lieve the al­le­ga­tions to be true. They can’t be true.”

The case re­sumes Wed­nes­day with more character wit­nesses.

HAMILTON SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO

Joe Costa, of Costa’s Wine Coun­try Inc., on Can­non Street East.

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