Jail ordered for border smuggler
A man who claims he didn't know about the cocaine discovered in his semi tractor-trailer truck at the Pacific Highway border crossing has lost his bid to stay out of jail until a court challenge of his conviction has been ruled on.
Gurvinder Singh Dhesi was ordered to begin serving his nine-year prison sentence by the B.C. Court of Appeal, which will hear his challenge in April.
During his trial in Surrey provincial Court, the 29-year-old Dhesi argued that he was what is known as a "blind courier" – meaning someone else put the drugs in the truck without his knowledge in July of 2009.
There was evidence that someone drilled out a rivet and replaced it with a bolt to allow the truck trailer to be opened without breaking a customs inspection seal that would normally allow the vehicle to cross the border without a second going-over.
But when a customs officer noticed the bolt on the truck didn't look right, he ordered another inspection, during which six brown cardboard boxes packed with cocaine worth about $2.4 million were found inside the trailer.
Investigators also uncovered a receipt in the truck for a cordless drill and two drill bits that were bought at a U.S. Walmart a few days before the smuggling attempt.
And, they found a Costco bag with the exact same type of bolt used to replace the rivet.
A test carried out for the trial showed that the drill and bolt could be used to remove the rivet, open the trailer without disturbing the seal, then replace the rivet with the bolt to conceal evidence of tampering.
In finding Dhesi guilty of one count of importing a controlled substance and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, Surrey Provincial Court Judge Reginald Harris said it was "very unlikely" that someone else put the drugs in the trailer. "The only rational conclusion is that the accused knowingly transported the cocaine into Canada," he found.
Dhesi is appealing his conviction and sentence, saying there was not enough evidence to support his conviction and the trial judge went too far in drawing the conclusions he did.
On Jan. 10, a B.C. Court of Appeal justice rejected Dhesi's application to remain free on bail until his appeal has been decided, saying that the serious nature of the charges require his incarceration.
The judge said the appeal should be heard quickly, and took the unusual step of suggesting specific dates were available in April to the lawyers for the Crown and defence.