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Heroin stored in children’s indoor playground, police say

- Adrian Humphreys National Post Twitter: Ad_humphreys

Police found kilos of heroin hidden in a children’s indoor playground in Brampton, Ont., when they moved to shutter an internatio­nal drug traffickin­g network accused of smuggling cocaine, ketamine, heroin and opium into Canada and looping it through Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

It was a “robust network” working to import drugs into the Toronto area from India and the United States and then distributi­ng them “through a sophistica­ted system run by the trafficker­s,” according to York Regional Police.

Officers in three provinces and in California executed more than 50 search warrants on April 8, leading to the arrest of 33 people.

Approximat­ely $2.3 million worth of drugs were seized, including 10 kilos of cocaine, eight kilos of ketamine, three kilos of heroin and 2.5 kilos of opium, along with 48 firearms, $730,000 in Canadian cash and three high-end vehicles, police said.

The investigat­ion, codenamed Project Cheetah, was begun last May by York police, north of Toronto, and expanded to include the Peel Regional Police, west of Toronto, the RCMP and the U.S. Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion.

During one raid, police needed to smash through an iron gate around a mansion that was fronted by large, decorative stone lions, a high fence and security cameras.

Heavily armed tactical officers using armoured vehicles breached the large property with support from both Peel and York police. At least one man was arrested there and led away in handcuffs by York officers. Children’s toys and bicycles lay about the home’s property.

Police video shows a customized shiny gold-coloured sports car inside a garage with a black floor embossed with a large gold crest of a lion’s head, surrounded by laurel leaves and the words “Jhajj Brothers.”

One of the men arrested was Harjinder Jhaj, 38, of Caledon, Ont. He is charged with traffickin­g ketamine, conspiracy to traffic ketamine and two counts of possession of property obtained by crime. Police did not comment on any connection.

Insp. Ryan Hogan of York Regional Police’s Organized Crime Enforcemen­t Bureau did say, however, that during a search of a property in Caledon, police found 46 guns — many of which look to be shotguns and rifles, including one with a tactical long-distance scope.

“Some of them (are) very menacing in the firepower they possess. And we know that in the drug trade violence is common. The propensity for violence (involving) profit-driven, illegal commoditie­s we’re seeing in the community on a regular basis,” Hogan said.

The guns were lawfully possessed but seized “as a serious threat to public safety” under provisions of the Criminal Code, given the nature of the criminal charges, he said.

Hogan also said the alleged discovery of heroin stored in a children’s playground business during the probe was concerning.

“Of particular concern when we look at heroin, a very insidious drug causing great harm to our community, a number of kilograms are alleged to be seized from a Playland in Brampton,” he said.

“We can see not only the effects in the community but the real significan­t risk that it put to the children, some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

The Karebear Playland is a large, three-storey children’s play area featuring climbing, slides and play structures, and three rooms for children’s birthday parties.

The company could not be reached for comment.

York police described a transnatio­nal investigat­ion into a network receiving drug shipments smuggled from India and California. The method of its entry into Canada was not revealed.

Peel Region, where most of the accused reside, is home to both Toronto Pearson Internatio­nal Airport and a large base of trucking companies, so either or both means are possible. York police did not mention the involvemen­t of Canada Border Services Agency in the investigat­ion.

“The success of this investigat­ion is a testament to the effective co-operation among multiple agencies across jurisdicti­ons as we pursue the shared objective of public safety,” Insp. Marwan Zogheib, the officer in charge of the RCMP’S Toronto West Detachment, said in a written statement.

“The RCMP’S resources across Canada and overseas and our partnershi­p with York Regional Police provide a multiplier effect to our collective efforts to dismantle such criminal networks.”

Although police said 33 people were arrested, they released the names of only 28 who were all arrested in Ontario, suggesting five may have been arrested in California or another province.

The U.S. DEA did not respond to requests for informatio­n.

There were 19 people from Brampton arrested, four from Toronto, two from Vaughan, and one each from Woodstock and Caledon. One man, of no fixed address, is listed as still wanted for arrest.

York police said the investigat­ion is ongoing.

 ?? PHOTOS: YORK REGIONAL POLICE ?? Police have seized numerous kilograms of drugs, firearms and have dismantled
a major drug traffickin­g network with Project Cheetah, a transnatio­nal bust.
PHOTOS: YORK REGIONAL POLICE Police have seized numerous kilograms of drugs, firearms and have dismantled a major drug traffickin­g network with Project Cheetah, a transnatio­nal bust.
 ??  ?? An officer holds bags of drugs seized in Project Cheetah.
An officer holds bags of drugs seized in Project Cheetah.

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