Crown presses Costa in cocaine smuggling case
Wine store owner denies any involvement
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.
Joe Costa, of Costa’s Wine Country Inc., on Cannon Street East.