WINDSOR, Ont. -- A trucker whose smuggling attempt led to one of the biggest drug seizures in the history of the Ambassador Bridge should go to prison for up to 20 years, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Richard Pollock told a sentencing hearing that Lacchman Singh Chahal, 41, breached his privilege as a commercial truck driver when he tried to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated $14 million into Canada.
Pollock said the case shows how cross-border truck traffic — particularly here in Windsor — has become “the primary method by which kilos of cocaine enter this country.
There is an identified problem, Pollock told the court.
Pollock said it’s important that the sentence deter other truckers from making the same choices as Chahal, who was motivated by pure commercial greed.
On the morning of Feb. 19, 2007, Chahal and his driving partner Sandeep Hans tried to drive a tractor-trailer into Canada via the bridge.
Canada Border Services Agency officers stopped the vehicle and discovered 147 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the cargo of California vegetables.
At the time, CBSA described the incident as among the most significant drug interceptions to occur at a Canadian land border crossing.
Both Chahal and Hans were charged with importing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
A lengthy trial resulted in Chahal’s conviction on April 15 of this year. He’s been in custody since that time.
Hans fled during the trial. His whereabouts are unknown and there is a warrant for his arrest.
Defence lawyer Dan Scott said his client was deceived by Hans.
Scott said Chahal is a first-time offender and that U.S. investigators confirmed Chahal was not a key player in the operation.
There is no question that Mr. Chahal.… was at the low end of the totem pole in terms of the hierarchy.
A dozen family members, friends and relatives of Chahal were in the courtroom as a show of support.
Scott described Chahal as a family man who led a simple and uncomplicated life until his arrest.
Both Hans and Chahal are originally from India. A Punjabi translator was required for Chahal.
Scott is arguing for a sentence of 12 to 14 years.
Pollock disputed Scott’s suggestion that Chahal was a mere courier.
This is not a question of a momentary lapse of judgement. This offence involves knowledge, deliberation, planning and forethought, Pollock said.
According to Pollock, Chahal and Hans were a team.
Police surveillance showed that when the truck was in California, bags of drugs were loaded on three occasions.
During the trial, Chahal’s testimony was found to be vague, self-contradictory and lacking in any credibility.
Pollock said Chahal’s role must be seen as similar to that of a plane pilot or ship captain bringing drugs into Canada. It’s hard to picture the pilot of a plane or the captain of a ship as an unwitting dupe, Pollock said.
Citing case history and international treaties, Pollock pointed out that authorities have identified importers as the critical link between foreign suppliers and domestic distributors of illicit drugs in Canada.
Pollock argued there is absolutely no evidence that Chahal was deceived into transporting the cocaine, as well as no evidence of coercion or threat. He was master of his fate.
Justice Richard Gates will hand down the sentence on Sept. 10. Chahal remains in custody.
By Dalson Chen,
July 7, 2010