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Drug bust links PoCo with Ottawa, Australia
The discovery of two kilos of drugs a year ago in a Port Coquitlam warehouse spurred a police investigation that led officers across the country and around the globe, culminating in the arrest this week of two people in Ottawa.
On Monday, the Combined Special Enforcement Unit said the suspects are believed to be part of an international drug ring that was shipping narcotics hidden in furniture from Canada to Australia.
Here's what happened:
In December 2012, Australian Customs and Border Protection Services, working with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), detected 45.5 kg of methamphetamine and 5.2 kg of cocaine concealed in furniture entering the country. The drugs had a street value of approximately $35 million in Canadian dollars.
Two Canadian nationals were arrested on Dec. 7, 2012 as a result of the seizure and the AFP continued to provide information to investigators in Canada.
That same month, CFSEU executed two search warrants on a Port Coquitlam warehouse, where one kilogram each of cocaine and methamphetamine were discovered.
Following the execution of more search warrants in Ottawa this past weekend, a 42-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man were arrested. The suspects both have connections to B.C., according to Houghton. The pair could be facing potential charges ranging from exporting a controlled substance, fraud, impersonation and passport-related offence. Their names will not be released until charges are approved by the crown.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton told The Tri-City News that in the last few years, organized crime groups have become increasingly mobile, making it difficult for investigators to track their targets.
"We have seen people in gangs and organized crime operate with a level of transiency... that we have never seen before," he said. "B.C. gang members travel all across Canada and the world to further their business.
"It's a challenge for us," Houghton said. "It really is like peeling an onion."
For this investigation, dubbed E-Namesake, investigators from the RCMP, the Ottawa Police Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Canada Border Services Agency and the Australian Federal Police were all involved in the dismantling of the drug network.
Evidence and information uncovered in the course of E-Namesake was also passed on to police in Quebec to aid them with Project Loquace, an investigation that led to the arrest of 103 people last year.
Among those arrested were members of the Rizzuto Mafia family of Montreal and high-ranking Hells Angels, including Larry Amero, who has been identified in court proceedings as a full-patch member of the organization.
More arrests are expected in B.C. as a result of the investigation, Houghton added.