Montréal, April 18, 2012 – A police operation conducted today by the RCMP resulted in the arrest of nine suspects in connection with the importation of a series of hashish shipments totalling 43.3 metric tonnes. This international police operation was conducted with the collaboration of law enforcement authorities in Pakistan, Italy, Belgium and the United States.
This investigation, dubbed Project CELSIUS, was initiated in the summer of 2010 by the Montréal RCMP Drug Section jointly with the Montréal RCMP National Ports Enforcement Team. It serves as an example of the firm commitment made by the RCMP to fight domestic criminal organizations with international ramifications that infiltrate legitimate businesses in our countries in order to engage in criminal activity, thus compromising the safety of our communities.
The investigation was initiated after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) found hashish in offshore containers at the ports of Montréal and Halifax in 2009 and 2010.
This investigation shows that the criminal organization involved purchased drugs from the Middle East, primarily from Pakistan. The hashish was hidden in containers that were shipped by boat and transited through several ports before being routed to Canada. Some of the suspicious containers were seized in Pakistan, while others were intercepted en route to Canada, specifically in Italy and Belgium.
Working closely with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Anti-Narcotics Forces of Pakistan, the RCMP tracked several suspicious shipments for the purpose of identifying the points of entry of the drug and destroying it before it entered Canada.
It is believed that the organization’s modus operandi was as follows: When a suspicious container arrived in Montréal, a fax was sent to a local hotel. One of the suspects picked up the fax and implemented a plan to take possession of the container. A number of irregularities were observed with respect to procedures and mandatory referrals, leading investigators to believe that employees performing various duties with companies at the Port of Montréal Terminal Cast were involved in the organization.
In total, 43.3 metric tonnes of hashish were seized, including the seizures made from the nine containers that were intercepted, the seizures made prior to Project CELSIUS and the other seizures made during the course of the investigation.
The investigators were able to collect substantial evidence that led to the laying of charges against nine targeted individuals. The investigation reveals that the accused controlled the logistics aspects in relation to the transportation and entry of illicit drugs into Canada. The following individuals face charges for conspiracy, importing and possession of cannabis resin for the purpose of trafficking:
In October 2010, authorities in Pakistan arrested the two leaders of an international network engaging in the exportation of hashish to Canada in connection with this investigation, thus eliminating a major narcotics source for criminal organizations in Canada.
The 43.3 tonnes of hashish seized in this investigation represent more than half of all the hashish forfeited in Canada or destined for Canada in 2009. Such a large quantity of hashish could have supplied every resident of a city of 10,000 with a daily dose for more than 11 years.
If sold in individual doses on the Montréal market, the drug seized in this project would have an estimated value of $860 million that will not be used to benefit organized crime or to finance further criminal activity in Canada.
It should be noted that the participation of Pakistani, Italian and Belgian law enforcement authorities and the role played by RCMP liaison officers in various countries were key elements to the success of the project. The collaboration of the CBSA and Montréal Port Authority, as well of the assistance of the Sûreté du Québec and Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, were also valuable.
"Through strong national and international partnerships, the RCMP reiterates its commitment to the fight against the highest level of organized crime in Canada and abroad and to keeping our communities safe and secure", said RCMP Criminal Operations Officer, Chief Superintendent Gaétan Courchesne.
The RCMP and its partners would like to remind the public that they intend to pursue their efforts to reduce drug trafficking in Canada and to destabilize organized crime groups by dismantling their infrastructure and by disrupting their ability to use our communities for their criminal activities.