Surrey trucker acquitted of smuggling $5 million worth of cocaine into Canada


Truck lineup

Trucks line up at the Pacific Highway-Blaine border crossing in this January 2010 file photo. A Surrey trucker was acquitted March 7 of attempting to smuggle 144 kilograms of cocaine across the Abbotsford-Huntingdon border crossing. Les Bazso/PNG files

A Surrey trucker has been acquitted of attempting to smuggle 144 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $5 million across the border in his vehicle.

On July 19, 2009, Amritpal Singh Narwal was stopped at the Huntingdon border crossing driving a 2003 Kenworth tractor and pulling an apparently empty 1996 commercial trailer.

He presented a border officer with a false bill of lading for delivery of a load of red peppers to a Safeway in Auburn, Washington state.

Instead of delivering the load of peppers, however, he had driven all the way to Los Angeles with an apparently empty trailer before returning with the empty trailer to Canada, after his company told him there was no load to pick up in L.A.

At trial he claimed that a false log book and the false bill of lading were provided to the border officer to avoid being caught for having driven more than the authorized number of hours without downtime.

The Crown argued that he’d set up a deception to avoid any suspicions by the border officer about bringing back an empty trailer from Los Angeles and to prevent further investigation.

When a border officer inspected the trailer, he observed that washers holding screws to a metal plate on the back of a refrigeration unit appeared scratched, as if the plate had been removed and replaced repeatedly.

Using a screwdriver, he removed one or two screws, peered behind the plate and pulled out two kilograms of cocaine.

When the plate was completely removed, it was discovered that the interior of the refrigeration unit had been hollowed out and filled with 144 kilograms of cocaine.

Court heard the street value of the drugs in Vancouver was more than $5 million.

Narwal, who was working part-time as a driver for a Surrey trucking company called Sandhu Express, was charged with one count of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and one count of unlawfully importing cocaine.

But at trial he claimed that he had no knowledge the cocaine was in the trailer and no reason to suspect it was there.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Truscott concluded that, whoever was involved, it was not a “well-run, smooth operation,” and said he looked on Narwal as being intelligent enough to see the folly of getting involved if he knew the drugs were being put in an empty trailer.

“I conclude that whoever loaded the cocaine did it without the accused’s knowledge and involvement, so that the accused would not appear nervous at the border or disappear with the cocaine,” said the judge in reasons for judgement posted online Thursday.

“It may be that someone involved with the cocaine was trailing the accused and was reporting when the cocaine could be loaded into the trailer.”

No matter how the operation was done, the judge said, he was satisfied the accused, who has no criminal record, was not complicit and was not wilfully blind to the presence of drugs in the trailer.

“I find the accused not guilty of the charges on the basis of reasonable doubt.”

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