Khat smuggling nets courier 19 days in jail

By Terrapinzflyer · May 25, 2010 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    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.

    MAY 21, 2010

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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Ottawa jails U.K. khat courier 10 days

    OTTAWA - A judge sentenced a British drug courier arrested at the Ottawa airport over the weekend with nearly 70 kg of khat to 10 more days in jail Thursday.

    A prosecutor said that quantity of the stimulant -- destined for Chicago -- would have cost just hundreds of dollars in England, where it's legal.

    But it would be worth almost $35,000 in Canada where it's banned, as it is in the U.S. and most of Europe.

    David Sydenham, 32, pleaded guilty to importation while charges were dropped against his wife, Leanne, who wept and shook in the prisoner's box.

    Both will be deported.

    The unemployed labourer tearfully told Judge Heather Perkins-McVey that the couple had been promised $1,000 for the trip.

    Instead, the parents of three got nothing but painful days in jail withdrawing from methadone, which both take to treat addiction to pain killers.

    "Clearly any time that Mr. Sydenham and his spouse have had (in jail) has a deterrent effect on them," Perkins-McVey concluded.

    "How can we begin to deter others who are probably not even going to hear of this disposition?"

    Prosecutor James Meloche sought three months in jail, arguing the quantity was large and leniency would create a "revolving door" for couriers of the drug, which is traditionally grown and chewed in Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen and increasingly used by newcomers here.

    "You can come here, give it your best shot and if you're caught, turn around and go home," he said.

    The nervous-looking couple were searched by customs agents as they arrived Saturday in Ottawa from London en route to Chicago.

    Agents found 69.9 kg divided between their bags.

    The couple were lucky to be arrested in Canada and not the U.S., said defence lawyer Richard Addelman, who asked for time served.

    In Canada, khat is classed with steroids or prescription barbiturates. In the U.S., it's classed with hard drugs such as heroin and minimum sentences apply.

    "I'm not going to try to excuse their behaviour," Addelman said. "It is legal in Great Britain. In North Africa it's grown and used widely and legally."

    This is not the first Ottawa airport seizure of khat -- which has to be used fresh within days of harvest -- coming to Canada from England.

    That's where it was coming from when police busted a smuggling ring -- which included an inside man who worked in the baggage area at the airport -- in 2007.

    He was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

  2. Smeg
    SWIM seems to remember that Qat doesn't "keep" very well. It degrades. SWIM also wishes David and Leanne a swift and safe journey home.
    Someone has left a message on SWIM's carrier pigeon informing him that there's a very distinct sell-by-date regarding the expiry of the product. Someone else also told SWIM in a taxi in Southall UK that it needed to be extensively chewed and masticated within three days before it was no longer effective.
    SWIM asks other SWIYS if this is true?
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