Trial for man accused of smuggling cocaine from U.S. to Canada begins in Lethbridge

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WATCH ABOVE: A trial is underway for British Columbia man accused of trying to smuggle drugs from the U.S. into Alberta more than three years ago. Quinn Campbell has the details. – Nov 19, 2019

Tuesday was the first day of a trial for a man from British Columbia facing drug trafficking charges in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench. Court heard both the Crown and the defence give opening statements.

In his opening statement, the Crown alleges Tejinderpal Sigh Sandhu knowingly transported cocaine from the United States to Canada in September 2016.

Sandhu is facing charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawfully importing drugs.

Sandhu was trucking boxes of Halloween costumes from California into Canada, destined for Edmonton, Alta., but the semi load was intercepted at the Coutts border crossing.

Crown prosecutor Dennis Hrabcak said 34 packages of cocaine were found in two boxes of Halloween costumes by customs officers. He said the value of the drugs ranged from $1 million to $2.5 million.

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The Crown added the evidence he plans to call will show the cocaine was inserted into the load after it was originally put into the truck. He said Sandhu knowingly brought the drugs into Canada and was the only one involved in the smuggling of drugs.

The defence said that is not the case.

In his opening statement, defence lawyer Brij Mohan said the case boils down to one thing, asking the jurors to think about the question: “Did Sandhu have the knowledge there was cocaine in his truck?”

He then told them he is confident the evidence will show his client did not.

Mohan also pointed out to the jury in his opening statement that during that trip from California to the border, Sandhu’s truck broke down and he was not in control of the vehicle for several days while it was repaired.

He added his client was working for a company that controlled what he picked up and what he dropped off. He told jurors he wanted to give them a word puzzle and that puzzle has four words. He then told the jurors they would solve the puzzle by the end of the day. He ended his opening remarks by saying: “Those four words are: ‘Rai is your guy.'”

The jury was reminded that what the Crown and defence said in the opening remarks was not evidence, and would have to be proven during the trial.

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During the testimony of the first witness, an RCMP officer involved in the investigation was asked by the defence if he knew of a man named Parmjit Rai, who owned the trailer the drugs were found in. The officer testified he believed that was correct.

The judge and jury trial is set for three weeks. The prosecutor has said he plans to call nearly 40 witnesses.

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