Khat smuggling nets courier 19 days in jail
British man agreed to carry 70 kilograms to U.S. for $1,000
A British man who tried to smuggle nearly 70 kilograms of khat into Canada last week will spend another 10 days in jail before being deported.
David William Sydenham, 32, and his wife, Leanne Sydenham, 34, were on their way to Chicago when they were caught with nearly $35,000 worth of the drug last Saturday at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport after landing on a flight from London, England.
The 69.9 kilograms of khat -- a herbal stimulant comparable to a mild cocaine or amphetamine -- was discovered in their luggage after a Canada Border Services Agency officer suspicious of the couple's "nervous demeanour" ordered a secondary inspection.
David Sydenham pleaded guilty Thursday to importation. The charges against his wife were stayed. Both will be deported.
"This gentleman was a courier. He is not an organizer," said Ontario Court Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, who gave the unemployed labourer time-and-a-half credit for the six days he spent in jail because he didn't get his methadone. She noted that Sydenham's crime was hardly sophisticated.
"Carrying it in a suitcase when you have to go through various methods of detecting is not a sophisticated plan," said Perkins-McVey.
Khat is indigenous to the northern part of Africa. When chewed it provides the user with a feeling that has been described as being roughly what one would experience after drinking two or three strong cups of coffee. Chewing khat is an ancient tradition in Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen groups and is legal in Britain and many other countries, but not in Canada or the United States. Under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, it is on the least serious list of prohibited drugs.
While federal prosecutors said the 69.9 kilograms of khat was worth nearly $35,000 on the black market, the same amount would only fetch a few hundred dollars in Britain.
BY ANDREW SEYMOUR,
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
MAY 21, 2010