SURREY, B.C. — Almost 500 kg of cocaine has been seized this year from commercial trucks at the Pacific Highway border crossing alone, according to a story in the Vancouver Province.
The story also states that the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) reports that airports are no longer the main point of entry for drug smuggling – instead land ports of entry are primarily being used.
In two separate incidents in just four days this month, the CBSA stopped 218 kg of cocaine at the truck crossing. The street value of the cocaine is almost $30 million. The drug busts follow an internal CBSA report that called B.C.’s land border crossings a major hub for cocaine importation, mostly through commercial truck.
The October 2007 CBSA report states that the amount of cocaine seized at B.C.’s land borders has tripled in the past few years. Most recently, on Dec. 20, 121 kg of cocaine was found in a false compartment in a commercial truck entering Canada. A 65-year-old Vancouver man was arrested and released while RCMP investigates. More recently, on Dec. 24, 97 kg of cocaine was discovered in a B.C.-registered tractor-trailer. The drugs were in a load of bananas being trucked from California to Vancouver. A 26-year-old Delta resident is under investigation.
Shakila Manzoor of the CBSA told the Province that the two busts are unrelated and the result of routine examinations. No charges have been laid. Police have said it’s likely cocaine brought to B.C. and distributed elsewhere in Canada and beyond. Manzoor couldn’t say where the drugs most recently seized were to wind up. “All we can say is that they didn’t make it on to the streets,” she said. “That’s the important part.”
The CBSA report states that smuggling cocaine in commercial tractor-trailer units has replaced using aircraft via the Toronto airport as the most common smuggling method. In 2002, the report said 70% of the cocaine seized in Canada was found at airports. Now less than 25% is found at airports. The Province states that it reported last year that the number of vehicle-based drug seizures in the Pacific region had jumped 51% since 2001.
Drug seizures from commercial trucks “happen too frequently from the industry’s perspective,” said Paul Landry, president of the B.C. Trucking Association. “It does give the trucking industry a black eye. If somebody reads about this . . . they don’t think of all the circumstances under which those drugs could find their way into a truck,” added Landry, who noted that drivers can unknowingly be hired to haul a container with drugs inside.
When trucking companies or drivers have been found guilty of smuggling drugs, Landry said, it’s been clear they were in the drug business first, and not the trucking industry. Criminal Intelligence Service Canada’s 2008 report on organized crime called B.C. a major centre of criminal operations, along with southern Ontario and Montreal. The report said: “Many organized crime groups have the capability to exploit international borders. International linkages maintained by several groups ensure that supply and distribution chains for several commodities remain strong.”
The CISC report said interprovincial distribution of cocaine is co-ordinated from B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
Also at the Surrey truck crossing this year, 67 kg of cocaine was found on Jan. 22 in the sleeper of a commercial truck. On Feb. 2, 151.7 kg of cocaine was found in a truckload of celery and, on Aug. 27, 42.9 kg was found in the sleeping area of a truck.