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$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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Is Post-Secondary Education An Option?

Posted on 21 October 2009 by .

Tuition fees rose for over ninety per cent of college and university students this year, according to a report released by Statistics Canada.


According to the report, tuition fees rose by 3.6% on average to $4,917, the same increase as the previous year. By comparison, inflation declined 0.8% this year, whereas last year it increased by 3.5%. Tuition fees are currently the single largest expense for most college and university students and are increasing more rapidly than any other cost faced by students and far faster than inflation. Tuition fees vary widely from province to province with students in Québec paying just over one third of those in neighbouring Ontario.


“A student’s ability, not their geography should determine whether they go to college or university,” said Giroux-Bougard. “In the absence of a national vision for post-secondary education, the federal government cannot ensure that students across the country have equitable access to higher education.”

The Canadian Federation of Students has been calling for a Post-Secondary Education Act that establishes guidelines for funds transferred to the provinces for post-secondary education. Federal legislation could ensure accountability and create national standards for the quality and accessibility of Canada’s universities and colleges

“Universities and colleges have been underfunded for more than a decade, requiring students to offset costs by paying higher tuition fees,” said Arati Sharma, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. “Further, students and families have fewer resources to pay for a post-secondary education as a result of the recession.”

Federal budget cuts in the early nineties substantially reduced transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education, resulting in a post-secondary education funding gap of nearly $4 billion across Canada. This funding gap has led to increasingly high tuition fees, over the past fifteen years.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the New Brunswick Student Alliance, the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the College Student Alliance, the Council of Alberta University Students, and the Alberta Student Executive Council, together representing over 600,000 students across the country, are asking the federal government to increase the federal funding for post-secondary education to $4 billion per year.

To ensure the effectiveness of this transfer, the federal government must work with the provinces in order to maintain their own post-secondary education spending upon receipt of this additional federal funding.

Ontario university tuition is now the highest in Canada averaging $5,951 per student according to Statistics Canada’s university tuition study released this morning. Universities in Ontario saw the largest increase in tuition in Canada, forcing more students to take on significant debt just to stay in school.

“Being number one in the country is nothing to be proud of when it’s for the cost of an education. This is a wake-up call for the provincial government,” said Dan Moulton, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). “We should be number one in quality, accessibility, and affordability, not setting new records for highest tuition.”

Ontario universities are in need of significant financial support, but Ontario students already pay a greater percentage of the cost of their education than their counterparts elsewhere in Canada. OUSA is calling on the provincial government to bring per-student funding up to the national average and for the federal government to take leadership on a nation-wide problem that is seeing tuition rise across the country.

“Given the current economic climate, it’s unreasonable to charge more tuition to students who already can’t afford it,” said Moulton. “It’s crucial that the Ontario and Canadian governments show leadership on this issue through serious new investments in higher education.”

With Files from CNW

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