Over a 1,000kg of illegal drugs were seized, including 444kg of cocaine, 182kg of crystal meth, 427kg of marijuana and 300 oxycodone pills. (Toronto Police)
Over a 1,000kg of illegal drugs were seized, including 444kg of cocaine, 182kg of crystal meth, 427kg of marijuana and 300 oxycodone pills. (Toronto Police)

Nine with roots in Punjab among 20 held in largest drug bust in Canada

A woman, Harwinder Bhullar, has been charged with participation in a criminal organisation and possession of proceeds over $5,000
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Toronto
PUBLISHED ON JUN 24, 2021 01:22 AM IST

Toronto Police have undertaken the largest “drug takedown” in its history, as it busted a ring that spanned three nations, leading to the seizure of drugs worth almost 61 million Canadian dollars (approximately 370 crore).

While 20 people were arrested in the operation, nearly half of them were of Indian-origin.

The operation, called Project Brisa (Spanish for breeze), lasted almost six months, after investigations commenced in November last year. Over a 1,000kg of illegal drugs were seized, including 444kg of cocaine, 182kg of crystal meth, 427kg of marijuana, and 300 oxycodone pills. Police also seized 21 vehicles, including five tractor-trailers, 966,020 Canadian dollars in cash and a firearm.

The tractor-trailers were being used to transport drugs between Mexico, the United States and Canada. Multiple law enforcement agencies participated in the operation, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, York Regional Police, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Windsor Police Service, Montreal Police, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, while Canadian police collaborated with the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Of those arrested, nine are of Indian-origin: Gurbakhash Singh Grewal, 37, of Brampton, Amarbir Singh Sarkaria, 25, of Caledon, Harbaljit Singh Toor, 46, of Caledon, Harwinder Bhullar, 43, of Caledon, Sarjant Singh Dhaliwal, 37, of Kitchener, Gurveer Dhaliwal, 26, of Kitchener, Gurmanpreet Grewal, 26, of Kitchener, Sukhwant Brar, 37, of Brampton and Parminder Gill, 33, of Brampton.

“The removal of this quantity of drugs destined for the streets of our respective communities has without question prevented countless overdoses, acts of drug-related violence like shootings, and other occurrences that diminish the quality of life for our citizens,” Toronto Police chief James Ramer said.

“When such networks are operating across three countries, Canada, the US and Mexico, ongoing collaboration between agencies, including CBSA is vital,” York Regional Police chief Jim MacSween said.

The name for the operation was derived from the first seizure, when Toronto police’s drug squad raided a tractor-trailer carrying a consignment of hair dryers.

This follows another major bust announced in April this year. In an operation dubbed Project Cheetah, law enforcement led by the York Regional Police arrested and charged over two dozen people and seized about 2.3 million Canadian dollars ($1.86 million) worth of drugs which included 10kg of cocaine, 8kg of ketamine, 3kg of heroin and 2.5kg of opium. Investigators also seized 48 firearms and 730,000 in Canadian currency ($592,588). Of the 27 arrested, 23 had roots in Punjab.

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