John Philip Stirling, 60, is in a Florida jail after U.S. authorities allegedly seized 400 kilograms of cocaine from his vessel
A self-described drug smuggler who walked away unscathed from two high-profile drug busts in B.C. has landed himself in hot water south of the border.
John Philip Stirling, 60, is in a Florida jail after U.S. authorities allegedly seized 400 kilograms of cocaine from his vessel on Oct. 18.
According to U.S. court documents, Stirling, in an unprompted outburst while being transported to a detention centre, said there was nothing wrong with cocaine trafficking and that the U.S. should mind its own business.
“He further remarked that if Canada didn’t have such high taxes, they could get legitimate jobs,” said the affidavit.
Stirling’s defiant comments did not come as a surprise to retired RCMP Sgt. Pat Convey, who spent years chasing the man.
“That sounds like our man, Mr. Stirling,” said Convey, reached at his Vancouver Island home.
Stirling was a “big, flamboyant, boisterous guy who enjoyed taking chances,” said Convey. “That’s what he was about. He was a drug trafficker. I think he’s been that all his life.”
Stirling — who had admitted to The Province in 2002 that he started smuggling dope when he was 16 — was skippering the Atlantis V when it was spotted on a routine patrol by the U.S. Coast Guard about 400 kilometres north of Colombia on Oct. 17.
When inspectors boarded the ship, they allegedly found 358 packages of drugs — mostly cocaine, but also some heroin and methamphetamines.
Stirling and his crew — fellow Canadians Thomas Arthur Henderson and Randy Wilfred Theriault, Colombian Jose Manuel Calvo Herrera and Italian Luigi Barbaro — were arrested and charged.
According to Barbaro’s statement, the ship departed from Santa Marta, Colombia, and was headed to Australia.
Stirling, who was sentenced to five years in jail in the 1980s on cocaine-related charges, had been arrested twice before in similar circumstances.
In a highly publicized case, Stirling was caught by U.S. authorities off Washington’s Cape Alava in 2001 with 2½ tonnes of cocaine, worth more than $250 million, aboard the Western Wind.
He was turned over to the Canadians. Later, he claimed he was an RCMP informant and that he was transporting the cocaine for the Hells Angels. No charges were laid.
Stirling was again arrested in 2006 after authorities found 155 bales of marijuana aboard a vessel near Vancouver Island. The charges were stayed.
Convey believes Stirling might finally get the reckoning he has eluded in Canada.
“The Americans play a different game from us, and quite frankly, our system leaves a hell of a lot to be desired,” he said.
“If they proceed with the case and they got him with the many hundred kilos [of cocaine], he’s going in for a long time.”