RCMP HAULS IN HASHISH CACHE IN HIGH-SEAS STING OPERATION
Authors: Ingrid Peritz, and Tu Thanh Ha
Globe and Mail (Canada)
Tue, 06 Jun 2006
Drugs Seized On Vessel Off African Coast Were En Route To Canada, Police Say
MONTREAL -- It was a sting operation on the high seas that was daring even for seasoned Canadian police.
One day last month, a boat sailed secretively onto the waters off the coast of Africa to deliver an illicit cargo: nearly 1,000 bags of hashish from Pakistan destined for Canada, police said.
About 320 kilometres off the coast of Angola, the boat met with another vessel that was to pick up the drugs and deliver them to Montreal. Unbeknownst to the suppliers, however, the pickup vessel was filled with 50 undercover Mounties.
Yesterday, the RCMP in Montreal unveiled details of a swashbuckling maritime police operation that netted them 22.5 tonnes of hashish. Police said it was the first time Mounties headed out onto international waters to intercept drugs.
"This indicates that in the battle against drugs consumption and trafficking, we have no boundaries," said Staff Sergeant Andre Potvin, head of operations for the RCMP drug section in Montreal.
Police video, filmed from the RCMP boat, shows the May 10 sting under way. Filipino sailors on the deck of the supply boat are seen hoisting sacks of drugs onto their shoulders as their vessel bobs on the open water. They had already arranged the rendezvous and, after trading prearranged codes over maritime radio, believed the boat awaiting them was part of their drug-shipment operation, the RCMP said.
The drugs were destined for suspects connected to Montreal's notorious West End gang, police said.
According to Staff Sgt. Potvin, the Filipino sailors simply threw the sacks from their ship onto the Canadian boat. The Mounties, their cargo secured, then sailed back to Canada under protection from the National Defence frigate HMCS Fredericton.
Arrested in the sting operation were 57-year-old Peter Toman, his son Andrew Toman, 24, and Sidney Lallouz, a Montreal man with a long and checkered history, who police allege was acting as a financial broker for the shipment.
All three are from the Montreal area and are alleged to have controlled an import cell for the city's West End gang, the RCMP said. They have been charged with drug importation, conspiracy to import, possession for the purpose of trafficking and drug trafficking.
The RCMP became involved after learning that a man was seeking a crew and ship able to navigate on deep waters and to carry drugs, the agency said. Working with RCMP in Halifax, Mounties in Montreal chartered a boat and posed as maritime shippers.
Police did not seize the drugs right away. They said they delivered a portion of it to a man. On Friday, as the man was moving to protect the cache, they swooped down and carried out the arrests, seizing $195,000, Staff Sgt. Potvin said.
He said that another man had agreed to pay about $4.5-million for the hashish shipment.
The drug bust is only the latest chapter in the life of Sidney Lallouz, who for decades has been named in various drug cases and real-estate controversies in Montreal.
Mr. Lallouz is a convicted drug dealer who spent 30 months behind bars for conspiring to import 700 kilograms of hashish from Pakistan. After his release in 1985, he and two others set up a real-estate firm that partnered with a municipal agency in a development project near Old Montreal.
Police investigated the project because a series of land flips made the city agency pay $34.8-million for real estate evaluated at a third of that amount.
Mr. Lallouz left for Spain as banks were suing him for $5-million in real-estate-deal debts.
By 1994, he was back in Montreal, as a co-owner in a health spa and a small mall, using his Hebrew given name, Chimeon. Those businesses went under, with Revenue Canada looking for $1.1-million in unpaid taxes by Mr. Lallouz. U.S. authorities also alleged that $750,000 from a fugitive drug trafficker had been invested in the mall.
Next, Mr. Lallouz's name was linked to the Marche Central scandal, in which three businessmen were charged with fraud after a congregation of Roman Catholic nuns were hookwinked into investing $100-million in a Montreal shopping centre.
Court documents allege that Mr. Lallouz worked as a front for the three businessmen, and at one point he filed a court affidavit in a bid to claim three briefcases stuffed with $372,000 in small bills that had been found in a building garage and were believed to be linked to the Marche Central dealings.
Police also worked with RCMP liaison officers in England, Morocco, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Spain.