N.S. judge says pair sentenced for opium trafficking are ‘good candidates for rehabilitation’

A man and a woman from Toronto convicted of drug trafficking-related charges earlier this year are "good candidates for rehabilitation," according to the judge who presided over the case. File/Global News

A man and a woman from Toronto convicted of drug trafficking-related charges earlier this year are “good candidates for rehabilitation,” according to the judge who presided over the case.

Mithusha Poobalasingam and Geevan Nagendran were arrested in Halifax in June 2017 and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking opium after officers in Montreal intercepted packages containing drugs concealed in children’s backpacks, lunch bags, and spools of fabric.

Poobalasingam, who was 22 and attending Toronto’s Ryerson University at the time of her arrest, was also found guilty of importing opium after the court found that the young woman had agreed to help an acquaintance referred to in the sentencing decision as “Rick” import products from India.

The court document said she had been given fake identification and multiple phones and SIM cards, and she also agreed to pick up the packages in Halifax with the intention of transporting them to Ontario – though she said throughout the trial that she did not know what exactly she was helping to import at the time.

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In a decision dated August 31 and released last week, Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Elizabeth Buckle said she accepted that Poobalasingam may not have known what she was getting into when she first met “Rick” in August of 2016, but felt the woman had been in a state of “wilful blindness” as she became more involved over the course of four to six months.

“It is clear that by early 2017, the fake name and SIM cards were in place and she had agreed to receive shipments destined for places in Ontario,” said Buckle.

“I believe that by that point, Ms. Poobalasingam knew she was involved in illegal activity and between then and the date of her arrest, her involvement and knowledge grew.”

The packages contained about five kilograms of opium, the document said.

Poobalasingam’s age, naivete, and lack of a previous criminal record were mitigating factors in her sentence, said Buckle, adding the woman’s role in the operation was nonetheless larger than Nagendran’s.

“Ms. Poobalasingam’s degree of responsibility is higher by virtue of her increased role in the offences,” she said.

“However, I accept that she was taken advantage of by ‘Rick’ who used her youth and naivety to ‘groom’ her over time.”

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The decision stated that Poobalasingam has a “history of unhealthy romantic relationships with men,” including Nagendran, who was married and 36 years old at the time of his arrest.

As well, Buckle said she believes the woman has a high chance of rehabilitation because she has expressed remorse in “a limited way” and has the benefit of a supportive family.

In Nagendran’s case, Buckle said his involvement in the operation was minimal and he and his family have already suffered “tremendous consequences” for his actions.

“Mr. Nagendran’s actions, this charge and his subsequent incarceration have had a tremendous impact on him and his family,” she said.

“His wife advises that she is separated from him and his marriage may be over. She has had to sell the family home and is now on social assistance.”

Nagendran, a Sri Lankan refugee, has two children and had been the sole financial provider for his family.

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He was most recently employed as a limousine driver, and his employer had advised the author of a pre-sentence report that he was a good employee and could return to work after his release from custody.

Buckle also said that both Poobalasingam and Nagendran were at the “low end of the hierarchy” in what she described as a sophisticated trafficking operation.

“They are expendable and replaceable,” she said.

“There is no evidence that either were part of the management of the organization, would be part of the eventual distribution of the drugs or would share in the profit from it.”

Poobalasingam was sentenced to serve three years in jail for importation and two years for possession for the purpose of trafficking, to be served concurrently. Nagendran was sentenced to two years in custody, less credit for the time he had already served at time and a half for a total sentence of 83 days.

In addition to their sentences, they are both banned from possessing weapons, firearms, ammunition and explosive materials for at least 10 years.

They will also need to provide DNA samples for the DNA databank and will have to sign a forfeiture order for various seized items.

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