Port Hardy sailboat said to contain one of largest cocaine shipments in B.C. history
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A sailboat intercepted by police off the northern end of Vancouver Island last week was carrying one of the largest cocaine shipments in B.C. history, the RCMP said Monday.
More than a tonne of cocaine - 1001 kilos - were found aboard the 50-foot vessel, painted with the name "Huntress," even though that title was registered to a commercial fishing boat.
Two men are now facing charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Scott Everette Pedersen, of Victoria ,and Mexican national Vicente Hernandez will next appear in court March 31. Both are 38.
S.Sgt. Dave Goddard, of the Greater Vancouver Drug Section, said police don't yet know if the men are linked to a specific crime group or cartel, but that organized crime had to be behind the huge drug haul.
"Any time you get a shipment of this size, there is a large organization that is in place," Goddard said. "It may be multitude of groups, it may be a multitude of investors."
The massive load would have fueled organized crime across the country, Chief Supt. Bob Harriman said.
And he said there have been more than 2,500 drug deaths in B.C. over the last decade.
"This does not include the hundreds of victims of open-air shootings that also result in many more injuries and deaths as drug supremacy wars unfold among drug-dealing groups," Harriman said.
Solicitor General Kash Heed said the coke haul is one of the biggest in B.C. history.
"By the time this is sold at the street level it is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to criminals," Heed said.
"This amount of cocaine removed from the market hits organized crime hard and our govt is committed to continue this aggressive pursuit of crime groups and gangs involved in this type of activity."
The bricks of cocaine were stacked more than a metre high at the news conference at RCMP E-Division headquarters Monday. About two dozen law enforcement officers, some of them undercover, crowded into the room as media outlets filmed the bricks, stamped with the number five and a smaller number one.
Supt. Brian Cantera, who is in charge of drug enforcement for the province, said the boat was contacted by a Canadian Forces aircraft doing a routine patrol. The crew gave the name "Huntress" and a call number. Both were registered to a fishing boat, which aroused suspicions. The Canadian Forces called the RCMP which intercepted the boat two hours later in Port Hardy.
Cantera said the boat was observed meeting a Zodiac before it docked. The cocaine was found a short distance away in 37 duffel bags dumped on the shore.
"Cocaine is a drug that fuels a significant level of violence in our society," Cantera said.
"It is a dangerous drug and it has all the makings to destroy many lives in our society when it is distributed amongst our communities and we are determined to intercept this distribution."
Both the sail boat and an inflatable raft have also been seized, as well as sophisticated navigational equipment, Cantera said.
Goddard said Hernandez was not living in Canada.
Pedersen faced an assault charge back in 2002, but was acquitted, though a judge noted he was present while his co-accused in the case, Ross Evan Addicott, inflicted a vicious beating in which the victim lost an eye.
He also ran into trouble with the Canada Revenue Agency who filed a lien against his personal property.
Goddard said the drug investigation is on-going and more arrests could be coming. He wants the public to call 778-571-7535 with any information related to the seizure.
"Police believe that there are further individuals that are associated to this criminal organization and any information that is received will be kept in the strictest of confidence," Goddard said.
BY KIM BOLAN,
MARCH 16, 2010
there are a few more photos and a video news story on the story linked above