alleged bulk cocaine trucker to get another day in court
March 28, 2011
March 28, 2011
With great interest I noticed that the 2009 acquittal of Avtar Singh Sandhu on cocaine trafficking charges had been overturned by Justice Janet Simmons of the Ontario Appeals court on Feb. 11 of this year. This means a new trial should be coming up soon. Stay tuned.
After being found with a massive quantity of coke (205 kgs.) in his trailer in 2007, Sandhu walked away on a technicality. The original judgement, delivered by Justice Michael Quigley, found that the evidence was gathered improperly and violated Sandhu’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
To quote a recent TorStar article from one of their satellite publications, Inside Halton, “One constable said he decided to go into the vehicle after Sandhu said he’d been ordered at gunpoint to load the trailer. Another officer, a 21-month-rookie, said it never occurred to him to get a search warrant before climbing on-board and slicing open bales of cocaine with his knife.”
However Justice Simmons ruled that Quigley had not established a “meaningful balancing” of other considerations and…“the further fact that exclusion of the evidence would put an end to the prosecution of a very serious charge.”
The granting of an appeal in this case must be some comfort to Ned Kelly (not his real name, for obvious reasons), who is the unsung hero in this case. At the time of the incident, he was working as security chief for Truck Town Terminals of Milton, Ont., Kelly no longer works there, but I caught up to him recently and asked him to tell me what happened that day.
On Sunday Feb. 4, 2007, Kelly pulled into Truck Town Terminals in the industrial outskirts of Milton, Ont., and proceeded to take a routine cruise around the yard
His curiosity was piqued when he saw a strange tractor trailer in the restricted parking area along with another car. He confronted two men and asked them what they were doing. They told him they had stopped for lunch. “I smelled a rat,” says Kelly. “For one thing it was 9 o’clock in the morning and too early for lunch. Something about these guys just didn’t feel right.” Kelly noticed foot prints in the snow leading to the back of the trailer and could see the trailer had probably been entered.
The truck and car sped off when Kelly told the truck driver he wanted his dispatcher’s number before he would allow him to leave the lot. Kelly gave chase and cut off the tractor on Steeles Ave., not far from Truck Town. “You’re really p***ing me off. Now, I want your dispatcher’s number and I want to see your driver’s licence, because I don’t think you’re qualified to drive that thing,” he told the driver.
The tractor roared off again and Kelly gave chase pulling him over a little further down the road. The truck driver again bolted repeating the scenario one more time until Kelly finally managed to cut him off on the west bound 401 ramp at the James Snow Parkway. By then a MTO officer, who noticed the disturbance, had arrived on the scene followed soon after by a Halton Regional Police cruiser.
Initially, the officers thought this was a dispute between a motorist and a trucker. Neither Kelly nor the officials had any idea that the trailer contained a mother lode of cocaine: $8 million of the powder wrapped in bundles and stashed among a load of baby carrots.
Kelly was anxious to get back to Truck Town and left the scene before the contraband was discovered. He only found out about the arrest after a female officer arrived at the terminal that afternoon to take his statement.
When Kelly was finally subpoenaed to testify in 2009, he told the Crown that he no longer lived in the area and had to travel some distance to attend the trial. He was told: “Feel free to make up an invoice an I will see if I can get you some witness money.”
Kelly replied, “’I’m embarrassed enough when I think of the taxpayers money that has been wasted on this farce and I will pick up my own expenses.’ As it turned out, I went to court 3 times and never saw a nickle.”
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs