Eleven Ontario residents were arrested after millions of dollars worth of drugs destined for Canada were seized through a years-long joint investigation between several law enforcement agencies.
More than $78-million worth of illegal drugs – including 24 kilograms of heroin and quantities of cocaine, opium, ecstasy and crystal meth – have been seized since Project INFINITY began in 2010, a collaboration between the Ontario Provincial Police's Organized Crime Bureau, the Toronto Police drug squad's Major Projects Section and the Canada Border Services Agency.
The OPP estimated the drugs' value would shoot to about $200-million had they been sold on the street in local communities.
On Wednesday, police executed eight search warrants across the Greater Toronto Area, seizing heroin and over-the-counter antihistamines, which are used in the production of crystal meth. They also seized six vehicles and $538,000 in cash that police allege were proceeds of crime. Six people already before the courts were charged.
"That has to disrupt organizations," OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis said in a joint news conference Wednesday, adding that the large seizures will keep the drugs out of the hands of street dealers and potential new users.
The investigation began by connecting four separate drug seizures in which narcotics were shipped to Canada from India, Pakistan, Peru and Guatemala using unique techniques. In the first instance, in June, 2010, 15 kilograms of heroin was threaded into the fibres of numerous carpets shipped to Toronto from Pakistan.
"That was the first time we've come across that method of concealment," said Goran Vragovic, GTA Regional Director for CBSA.
Authorities also seized: a kilogram of cocaine intercepted from Peru in May, 2011; about five kilograms of heroin hidden inside a crate of crockery in Toronto that came from Pakistan in 2011; a wooden clock from Guatemala concealing cocaine in 2011; and ephedrine masked in vanilla powder from India in 2012.
In March this year, about 1.45 kilograms of heroin was seized in Hamilton, found pressed between two silver plates that were fused together to appear as one.
"New and innovative ways of trying to conceal narcotics are something that our officers are trained to look for," Mr. Vragovic said.
Toronto Police Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said collaborating with the other law enforcement agencies was crucial to the investigation's success.
"Criminals do not have borders and neither do the police," he said.
Commissioner Lewis commented on the unusually large quantity of drugs from the seizures.
"In 35 years in the OPP, I've never, ever held a kilo of heroin in my hand," he said. "These are huge numbers, even for Toronto."
Eleven people, ranging in age from 24 to 48 years, are charged with 76 offences. The accused are:
Andy Ching, 39, of Markham, Ont.; Brandon Rilling, 24, of Oshawa, Ont.; Chia Foo Lim, 35, of Mississauga; Hasan Hatemi, 43, of Mississauga; Wai Loon (Allen) Kong, 34, of Stouffville, Ont.; Sabrullah Khan, 24, of Brampton; Van Nguyen, 46, of Newmarket, Ont.; Hien Nguyen, 45, of Newmarket; Ally Mustapher Songambele, 43, of Toronto; Erick Santana, 27, of Brampton; Hassanali Hassanali, 45, of Brampton; Ines De Jesuspaulino, 43, of Brampton; Lawrance Mtawali, 46, of Hamilton, Ont.; and Tonny Ezeh, 39, of Toronto.