Baldev Singh, where are you? The Toronto-area trucker, convicted of trying to smuggle 69 kilograms of cocaine into Canada, did not show up for court in Windsor Tuesday. He didn’t show up in December either when he was supposed to have a sentencing hearing.
The federal Crown wants Singh sentenced in absentia to 12 to 15 years in prison.
But Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance isn’t sure that’s the right thing to do.
“It is a potentially unfit sentence that is merely symbolic,” the judge said.
Singh, 45, was convicted in September after testifying at trial that he had no knowledge he was transporting cocaine when he crossed the Ambassador Bridge on the morning of March 19, 2009.
Singh was caught when his truck was randomly selected for a training exercise with a drug-sniffing dog. The handler was in the process of hiding a dummy stash in a crate in Singh’s trailer. When she removed a bag of oranges to hide the training aid, the officer found 21 bricks of cocaine in the crate.
Among the evidence connecting Singh to the drugs was cocaine residue found on suitcases in the cab of the truck. There were impressions on the top of the bins containing the oranges that matched the wheels on the suitcases. Investigators believe the cocaine had been transferred from the suitcases into the crate after all the crates had been loaded into the trailer.
Singh tried to argue he’d found the suitcases in the garbage.
Among other testimony heard at trial was that Singh’s truck had crossed the border bearing signs that read Omni. On the way back into Canada, the signs read East West Trucking Inc. Singh testified the company changed names while he was on his trip to Woodlake, Calif. He said new signs were waiting for him at a truck stop in Oklahoma City.
Pomerance in September ordered a background report on Singh before the sentencing hearing. The probation officer who was to prepare the report said he never showed up for his interview.
Pomerance said Tuesday that, without the information that report would provide, she would have difficulty determining what a fit sentence would be in the case. She doesn’t know if there are any mitigating facts she should consider. But federal drug prosecutor Richard Pollock said Singh obviously doesn’t care for the court to know anything about his personal life. “By absconding, the accused has waived his right to place that information before you.”
Pomerance responded: “He has forfeited his right to be heard, but has he forfeited his right to a fit sentence?” Pomerance agreed accusedpeople should not be allowed to “hijack” court proceedings.
But this is not a trial, Pomerance said. Singh has already been convicted and can be sentenced when he is found. She reserved her decision in the case.
Singh had a lawyer at trial, but Pomerance let him off the record in December after he lost contact with Singh.
Singh was free on $210,000 bail when he fled. He put up $40,000 in cash and promised another $25,000 if he broke any conditions of his release. Two people promised to supervise Singh while he was free, backing up that promise with cash. Sarbjit Kaur Cheema, 37, of Brampton, deposited $5,000 in cash with the court. Pritam Hansra, 58, also of Brampton, promised $140,000.
The Crown has begun proceedings to get that money.