Police agencies from across Canada and down in the U.S. have made a record-setting drug bust with roots in Alberta. And Global News has learned one of the men charged in the investigation recently survived a shooting in southwest Calgary.
Over the span of nearly three years, Project Cobra confiscated an estimated $55 million worth of methamphetamine and cocaine as part of a cross-border investigation.
“We’ve heard the saying ‘cutting the head off the snake’ in order to cripple a criminal network, well, Project Cobra didn’t just cut off the head of the snake; these dedicated men and women took (out) the whole damn snake,” ALERT Supt. Marc Cochlin said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The investigation included numerous police and specialized agencies including the Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Niagara Regional Police, Canada Revenue Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and RCMP units in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Sask., and Osoyoos, B.C.
Officers working on Project Cobra put a focus on transnational drug importation, drug trafficking and money laundering.
A total of 928 kilograms of meth, along with six kilograms of cocaine were seized, as well as roughly $7 million worth of assets that have been seized or placed under criminal restraint.
Of the 928 kg of meth seized, 342 kg was found in Wyoming, 395 kg was located in Los Angeles, 144 kg of meth was found in Calgary, and 50 kg of meth was found near Lake Koocanusa, B.C. In a news release, ALERT said the drugs were all part of shipments destined for Alberta.
One kg of cocaine was also seized in Calgary while another five kg were found in North Battleford, Sask.
Two large homes, including a $3.5-million house in Niagara-on-the-Lake, two Mercedes G-Class SUVs, two Lamborghinis, a Porsche, a Mercedes car, classic cars and $200,000 in cash were also part of the seizure.
A total of 19 firearms including handguns, rifles, submachine guns and suppressors were also taken off the street as a result of Project Cobra.
As a result, 15 people and one business were charged between May and August of this year. The 80 criminal charges range from participation in a criminal organization, to importation of a controlled substance, to laundering proceeds of crime, to drug trafficking.
Suspects arrested include:
- Elias Ade, 38, from Calgary, charged with 12 offences;
- Abdul Akbar, 37, from Calgary, charged with eight offences;
- Tianna Bull, 25, from North Battleford, charged with one offence;
- Lina El-Chammoury, 50, from Calgary, charged with two offences;
- Russell Ens, 39, from North Battleford, charged with two offences;
- Talal Fouani, 46, from Calgary, charged with three offences;
- Belal Fouani, 44, from Calgary, charged with three offences;
- Kari-Lynn Grant, 51, from Calgary, charged with four offences;
- Scott Hunt, 33, from Calgary, charged with three offences;
- Ricco King, 50, from Bedford, N.S., charged with five offences;
- Jarett Mackenzie, 32, from Calgary, charged with six offences;
- Jesse Marshall, 52, from Calgary, charged with four offences;
- Daniel Menzul, 32, from Calgary, charged with four offences;
- Sean Nesbitt, 44, from Calgary, charged with three offences; and
- William Whiteford, 39, from Leduc County, charged with 20 offences.
Fouani Equity Funds Ltd. — a Calgary-based investment company — was also charged with laundering proceeds for an organized crime group, according to ALERT.
Sources confirm to Global News that the Talal Fouani charged in this investigation is the same man who survived a southwest Calgary shooting in August.
The shooting happened on the morning of Aug. 18, in a cul-de-sac in the 100 block of Everwoods Court S.W. Police said they found two people in a parked vehicle in medical distress from what appeared to be gunshot wounds.
Nakita Baron, 31, died at the scene. Talal Fouani was taken to hospital in life-threatening condition, but his condition was later updated to stable.
According to court records obtained by Global News, Talal Fouani faces charges including laundering proceeds of crime, possession of property over $5,000 obtained by crime and participation in activities of criminal organization.
He was also convicted of various crimes between 1996 and 2007.
Since the investigation began in 2020, 11 search warrants were completed in December 2021 that included homes, vehicles, businesses and storage locations in Calgary, Bedford, N.S., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Leduc County, Alta.