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Crown prosecutors ask for 20-year jail terms for drug smugglers

india Updated: Jul 10, 2012 12:44 IST

Crown prosecutors have recommended 20-year prison sentences for two men - one of whom was a border guard - convicted of drug smuggling as reported by The Province. On June 29, Baljinder Singh Kandola, 40, and Shminder Singh Johal were convicted of conspiring to import cocaine and importing cocaine.

Kandola, who worked for the Canada Border Services Agency, was also convicted of breach of trust by a public officer and accepting a bribe. Johal was also convicted of importing firearms and giving a bribe to a public officer.

Sentencing submissions began in BC Supreme Court in New Westminster Monday and are expected to continue Tuesday.

Kandola and Johal conspired to smuggle drugs through the Pacific Highway border crossing between May 2006 and October 2007.

Justice Selwyn Romilly said in his June decision that Kandola was a "facilitator" and Johal oversaw the operation while a third man, Herman Riar, was a transporter.

Kandola communicated with the two men to ensure smooth passage of the drugs at times he was working and through his booth. He also made sure the crossings were not recorded in the computer.
Kandola received $6,000 cash and more than $10,000 in benefits such as car parts and upgrade work.

Kandola testified at trial that he expected Johal to bring only cars or car parts through the border. Johal said he did not intend to import cocaine. Romilly did not believe either man.

The conspiracy was busted on Oct. 25, 2007, when Riar was arrested after going through Kandola's booth. In his car police discovered 208 kilograms of cocaine and three guns. A search of Johal's house uncovered $223,880.

"The scope, scale and sophistication of the conduct as well as the highly aggravating circumstance of the corruption at the border, in my submission, push the sentences in this case to the upper end of the range," Crown prosecutor James Torrance said.

Torrance said the case "strikes at the heart" of our democratic system, wherein citizens expect people employed in the public service to do their jobs without corruption.

"At its core this case is about the corruption of a CBSA official and the importation of an enormous amount of cocaine," Torrance said.

Torrance has asked that the money seized from Johal and firearms be forfeited.

Riar previously pleaded guilty to importing cocaine and is serving a 12-year sentence. Vancouver businessman Charles Lai, who pleaded guilty in Sved 13 years in prison.

Defence lawyer James Sutherland said Kandola should receive a longer sentence than Riar because of his position as a border services officer. However, Sutherland said, the Crown's recommendation was too long.

Sutherland instead suggested a 15-year prison term.

"The consequences of incarceration will fall harshly on his family," Sutherland said. Sutherland submitted a number of support letters for Kandola and described him as a devoted and dedicated family man, hard working, honest, genuine, sincere, strong and resilient.

"Mr. Kandola's reputation has been devastated," Sutherland said, describing Kandola as half the man he once was. Kandola kept his head bowed deeply during his lawyer's submissions. "His fall from grace has been long in duration and far in distance, and it has been dramatic," Sutherland said.

Johal's lawyer will make submissions Tuesday. Romilly is expected to deliver his decision on Friday.