The “corrupt” former border guard Baljinder Kandola with Canada Border Services Agency conspired with drug smuggler Shminder Johal and two others four years ago with to smuggle at least 208 kilos of cocaine and firearms into Canada
The “corrupt” former border guard Baljinder Kandola with Canada Border Services Agency conspired with drug smuggler Shminder Johal and two others four years ago with to smuggle at least 208 kilos of cocaine and firearms into Canada, according to Crown counsel James Torrance.
The B.C.-based drug smuggling operation is alleged to have involved Johal and Herman Riar driving drugs across the Pacific border crossing, with carefully-predetermined stops at the booth manned by Kandola, reported the Province newspaper.
Riar has already pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and was sentenced in January 2010 to 12 years in jail.
Kandola, with six years’ service with the Canada Border Services Agency, is alleged to have sent texts to Riar and Johal giving them the green light to come to his booth. The Crown says Johal recruited the border guard by offering him money.
Torrance said he will produce cellphone intercept transcripts and surveillance by police on both sides of the border showing the conspiracy involving the three men.
Johal and Riar slipped through the border with ease, allegedly thanks to Kandola, on at least three drug runs from Washington state between May 2007 until they were arrested Oct. 25, 2007.
Kandola, meanwhile, was being monitored by the CBSA, who noticed that Kandola did not check the computer database on Riar and Johal.
CBSA eventually bugged Kandola’s booth as part of joint undercover operation with the RCMP.
Torrance said he will introduce evidence about three trips across the border made by Riar and Johal on July 28, Sept. 7 and Oct. 25, 2007.
The defence has agreed to allow telephone transcripts to be introduced as evidence.
Kandola would send text messages to Johal indicating the time that it was safe to cross, court heard. A short time before the trio was arrested, Kandola sent a text to Johal saying “Aja,” which means “come” in Punjabi, Torrance told Romilly.
The first witness to take the stand, RCMP (retired) Corp. Joe Sellinger described surveillance of Johal’s vehicle near the Pacific border crossing on Oct. 25, 2007.
Johal evaded a “staged” accident scene and was pulled over by police forces.
Sellinger testified that he tested a sample on the spot from 11 large boxes full of bricks of cocaine and “it turned blue right away,” signifying pure cocaine.
Torrance said surveillance and intercepted calls showed the three men in close contact with each other prior to each border crossing.
Kandola’s lawyer James Sutherland have indicated his defence will be that his client did not know what was in the boxes.
At the end of the opening day, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly was asked if Johal and Kandola, two burly men in the prisoners box, could speak to each other.
Johal’s lawyer Mark Bussanich asked if bail conditions could be varied to allow the two men, whose families sit on opposite sides of the court, to speak to each other.
Romilly agreed to let the alleged co-conspirators speak, but only “in the presence of counsel.”
Both men pleaded not guilty on Monday to multiple drug and firearm charges, including trafficking along with breach of trust and bribing an official. The trial will continue until June 30.