Categorized | Youth Issue

$250M worth of cocaine hidden in cement blocks is the biggest seizure in its history, OPP says

Posted on 01 September 2017 by admin

OPP say three Toronto-area men were responsible for allegedly importing more than 1,000 kilograms of pure cocaine into Canada from Argentina.

A tip from a member of the public has triggered the single largest drug seizure in the history of the Ontario Provincial Police.

The force netted 1,062 kg of 97 per cent pure cocaine which had a wholesale value of $60 million and an estimated street value of $250 million, OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes said Monday at a press conference at OPP headquarters in Orillia.

“This is a massive seizure – bigger than I’ve seen in my 33 years of policing,” Hawkes said.

Armed tactical officers stood guard at the press conference near the wall of multi-coloured cocaine bricks on display. There was a further armed guard at the entranceway to the OPP complex.

That cocaine will be destroyed at a secret location, Hawkes said.

“There’s a lot of drugs out there and drugs are killing people,” Hawkes said.

“It’s an amazing size seizure,” OPP deputy commissioner Rick Barnum said, adding the investigation is ongoing.

The OPP declined to elaborate on the tip that started the massive operation.

 “Good information was received,” Barnum said.

The initial arrests were made after a traffic stop of Highway 410 in May.

The drug would have been cut down to between 30 and 40 per cent purity before it reached the streets, often with particularly deadly additives liken fentanyl, Barnum said.

“With the amount of pure cocaine seized during Project HOPE, we’ve stopped many criminals from causing more harm to our communities while removing a quarter of a billion dollars from the criminals economy,” Hawkes said.

Despite the massive amount of cocaine seized, there hasn’t been a noticeable change in the price of the drugs on the streets, Hawkes said.

Most of the stones containing bricks of cocaine had a kilogram hidden inside. The most found in a single stone was six kilograms, Barnum said.

Some of the stones were seized at a stone supply operation in Stoney Creek.

“Certainly the business was set up to be a front or a cover,” Barnum said, adding it wasn’t known where the cocaine was initially produced.

“There are definitely connections to Mexico and the Mexican cartels,” he said.

The Mexican cartels have members living in the GTA, he said.

The cocaine was smuggled in pallets of building stones.

“Our dogs – CBSA dogs – never detected the cocaine,” Barnum said.

He declined to say who would have distributed the drugs in Canada, except to say they are “extremely high-level organized crime groups.”

The haul was called Project Hope and was in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency, Peel Regional Police, the FinancialTransactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The cocaine was loaded onto ships in Argentina, destined for the Port of Montreal and then the GTA, Niagara Region and other parts of Canada, police said.

Luis Enrique Karim-Altamirano, 52, of Vaughan has a bail hearing on Aug. 30. He’s charged with importation of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking and driving while disqualified.

Mauricio Antonio Medina-Gatica, 36, of Brampton, has been freed on bail after being charged May 1 with importation of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking.

Iban Orozco-Lomeli, 45, of Toronto was charged July 10 of importation of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking. He has also been released on bail.

 

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