ST. CATHARINES —Two Hamilton men, including a 70-year-old, are among the dozen facing drug charges following a 10-month investigation into a global criminal organization with ties to a Colombian drug cartel that was networking through the Golden Horseshoe.
Niagara Regional police initiated the investigation after being tipped off about suspicious activity in a St. Catharines’ Chinese food restaurant.
Using surveillance and undercover officers, police began to link those under investigation to a wider ring, Inspector Cliff Sexton said during a press conference at Niagara Regional police headquarters this morning.
Police displayed cash, money counters and 1024 grams of cocaine collected through the investigation.
There was also a map with arrows displaying common routes the drugs would be shipped from Columbia to Spain and the Netherlands and then to Canada, or straight from Costa Rica or Panama to Canada.
They would ship on planes, boats and various other modes to transport the drugs, Sexton said.
The entire Project Takeout yielded roughly $10 million in cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, hashish and marijuana. Police also seized 30 high-end vehicles.
The individuals arrested are not part of a “recognizable criminal ring, like bikers,” Sexton said. Rather they are a group of many seemingly operating on their own, connected by a few top organizers.
He called when officers realized they were dealing with a much bigger ring, including when they found that police in New York were already investigating, “Ah-Ha moments”.
The bust will have a substantial impact on drug trafficking, said Niagara Regional police Chief Wendy Southall.
Roughly 350 police officers from across the province and in Quebec were involved in the investigation, including Hamilton police.
Hamilton’s emergency response unit was called in for the Hamilton end of yesterday’s simultaneous early-morning drug raid, said Hamilton police Deputy Chief Ken Leendertse, who was at the press conference representing Hamilton.
The 70-year-old man was arrested at his west-Mountain home without incident, he said.
The man wasn’t alone, but police would not elaborate on how the arrest took place.
A 46-year-old Hamilton man was also arrested at his west-end apartment.
In total 12 people were charged with 107 offences and police are still searching for two more men — from Toronto and Niagara.
In Hamilton roughly two ounces of cocaine were seized per property, but Leendertse maintains that given the grand scope of the operation it’s a big deal for Hamiltonians.
July 08, 2010
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