A man who was once one of Surrey’s most wanted criminals and whom police called a “big-box retailer” in the drug world has lost an appeal of nearly two dozen drug and firearms convictions.
In May 2012, Malakias Swales was found guilty of 26 charges related to possessing and trafficking drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy, as well as possessing an array of restricted or prohibited firearms and silencers.
He appealed 23 of those convictions on the grounds that the evidence linking him to a stash of drugs and weapons found in a Surrey apartment in 2006 was lacking. Swales pointed to the testimony of his younger brother, who said the apartment was a stash house for his own drug trafficking business and that his older brother was just visiting and didn’t know about the drugs and guns.
Three appeal court justices did not buy Swales’ arguments, dismissing his appeal in a written ruling Monday (Sept. 15).
“In my view, Mr. Swales’ allegations of misapprehension of evidence are nothing more than disagreements with the judge about the interpretation of evidence,” Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein wrote, with Justices Mary Newbury and Anne MacKenzie in agreement. “There is ample evidence to support the trial judge’s findings.”
In was early 2006 when police were conducting surveillance on Swales, a suspected drug dealer. They followed him to a Surrey apartment building, saw him go in and come back out carrying a large tote bag, which he threw in the back seat. His accomplice, Scott Sloboda, was driving. While police arrested and charged Sloboda, Swales sped away, and managed to escape when police abandoned the chase.
In a search of the apartment, investigators found the stockpile of drugs and weapons worth about $2 million. At the time, police held a press conference displaying the haul and calling Swales Surrey’s “most wanted” criminal.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Swales turned himself in.
He was sentenced to 15 years in jail following his 2012 conviction.
The appeal court justices said the trial judge properly evaluated the evidence and the inconsistencies in his brother Erin Swales’ testimony.
“The fact there was no direct evidence linking Mr. [Malakias] Swales to apartment 201, and there was evidence linking others, did not detract from the final result,” wrote Stromberg-Stein. “Others may have been involved, but the judge was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Swales had knowledge and control of the drugs and weapons in the apartment.
“The trial judge could reasonably conclude Mr. Swales’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It cannot be said the verdict is unreasonable.”
Court documents in 2012 indicated Swales suffered a series of life-altering strokes in 2011 and that it was unlikely he’d ever be able to work.