Ottawa Citizen

Police trail drugs from Jamaica; seize 625 kilograms at Halifax port

Two men arrested after claiming cargo

- BY CHRIS WATTIE

TORONTO • Police have rolled up a major drug smuggling ring in an operation that began when customs inspectors in Halifax found more than 600 kilograms of hashish hidden under a load of pumpkins and yams from Jamaica.

What police called Project Kalabaza began in June when the Canada Border Services Agency searched a shipping container unloaded in Halifax and found a false bottom under boxes of vegetables and canned goods.

A routine scan of the container turned up something suspicious, said Alonzo MacNeil, chief of marine operations for the agency.

The container was emptied and put through a thorough search, including drilling into the floor. “ We struck oil, so to speak,” said Mr. MacNeil. “ The drill- ing revealed a quantity of hashish oil.”

The agency called in the RCMP, who in turn contacted Toronto police, because the container was bound for the Toronto area. Investigat­ors decided to follow the trail right to the end, replacing the pumpkins, yams and sweet potatoes and removing the drugs from the container.

“ We took 625 kilograms, mainly of hash oil, out of that container, all wrapped up and waterproof­ed,” said Mr. MacNeil. “ Then we did what we call a controlled delivery.”

Police tracked the container as it was shipped to a west Toronto warehouse, watching as two men hooked it up to a transport truck and drove it to Lynden, Ont., where it was backed into a garage.

“ We had surveillan­ce on that cargo can the whole time,” said Det.- Sgt. John Decourcy of the Toronto police drug squad. “ It was hidden in a private garage.”

Police later arrested two men and charged them with theft and importing drugs. The men, one from Lynden and one from Winona, Ont., appeared in court earlier this month.

Details about the seizure were not made public until yesterday because of the ongoing investigat­ion.

Det.- Sgt. Decourcy said it was satisfying for his detectives to be able to track a large drug shipment — worth an estimated $ 19 million — and scoop it up along with the smugglers before it was distribute­d on Toronto streets.

“ We don’t generally get a heads- up like this before a shipment even arrives in the city,” he said. “ Without the kind of excellent co- operation we had with the ( Canada Border Services Agency) and the RCMP, we would never have been able to do that.”

Mr. MacNeil said Project Kalabaza is the latest in a series of major drug seizures for the border agency. He said nearly 6,000 kilograms of illegal drugs have been seized this year entering Canada through the port of Halifax.

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