A former Windsor truck driver has pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle 165 kilograms of khat into Canada but received a suspended sentence Thursday because he was trying to raise money to visit and help his ill father in Ethiopia.
Daniel Kassa, 45, was given a suspended sentence by Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin Thursday and was also given three years’ probation.
In May 2007 Kassa was driving a tractor-trailer into Canada at the Ambassador Bridge and was stopped by Canada Border Services Agency officers even though at the time he had a FAST pass.
Inspectors uncovered the khat, with an estimated street value of $82,000, hidden on the trailer.
Khat is a schedule IV narcotic under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It can be possessed for personal use, but cannot be imported or sold.
Khat is a green-leafed plant native to east Africa which, when chewed, releases the chemicals cathine and cathinone, which produce an effect similar to amphetamine.
It creates a euphoric and excited state in users.
Khat is not banned in many European countries including the United Kingdom.
Kassa’s lawyer Andrew Bradie told court that Kassa was born in Ethiopia and lived there until the age of 14, when he was pressured to join the military and was later forced to flee with family members to Rome.
Kassa eventually made his way to Canada but he now has family members scattered across the globe.
Bradie said Kassa’s ethnicity is a source of friction in his homeland.
Kassa has no criminal record and since his FAST pass was voided upon his arrest he has been employed in West Lorne.
“He has had no further difficulties with the law,” said Bradie, adding that Kassa lives with a common-law wife and a child.
In dispensing sentence Rogin rationalized the profit-making motive for the smuggling.
“I accept the profit motive is an aggravating factor,” said Rogin.
“That is somewhat diluted by the fact that rather than a sense of greed, it was motivated by a desire to visit his father, who had a stroke.”
The maximum sentence for importing khat under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act is three years.
Rogin said the fact that Kassa was using a FAST pass to smuggle a controlled substance across the border was an extremely aggravating factor.
Rogin gave Kassa an opportunity to speak.
“I’m very sorry,” said Kassa.
“This will never happen again.”
By Chris Thompson
August 13, 2009
The Windsor Star