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Border guard busted, charged

 A large amount of cocaine, cash and three prohibited handguns were seized by RCMP at the Pacific  Highway border crossing. -
A large amount of cocaine, cash and three prohibited handguns were seized by RCMP at the Pacific Highway border crossing.
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Investigation into an “infiltration” of organized crime at the Pacific Highway border resulted in the arrest of three men – one of them a Canadian border guard – at the commercial crossing early Thursday.

For one of their own to use authority and trust as an officer for personal gain would be the ultimate betrayal, Canada Border Services Agency’s Kim Scoville said Friday.

“There’s nothing that could be worse.”

The RCMP’s emergency response team and border officers arrested Surrey resident Baljinder Kandola, who has been a guard at the commercial port for six years, along with Richmond residents Shminder Johal, 34, and Herman Riar, 26, just after midnight Thursday, after a border guard was seen letting two SUVs enter Canada unchecked.

A search uncovered 208 kilograms of cocaine and three prohibited handguns in one of the GMC Yukon Denalis. The search of a home connected to a suspect in a second Denali recovered more than $200,000 cash.

Loose ammunition – 40 rounds of .45-calibre bullets in all – was found inside boxes holding the bricks of cocaine, added Insp. Dan Malo of the RCMP’s border integrity unit at a news conference in Newton. There’s no doubt organized crime is behind it all, Malo said.

“Nobody is going to purchase 208 kgs of cocaine for personal use,” he said. “Normal gun owners, responsible gun owners, are not organized-crime targets that smuggle unregistered guns into Canada.

“Nobody in Canada smuggles this quantity of cocaine without being involved in organized crime. We know this (contraband) was destined to organized crime in the Lower Mainland.”

Thursday’s arrests and the subsequent multitude of charges laid against the three men – Kandola faces six; Johal and Riar face four each – were the result of a 13-month investigation sparked by reports a border guard at the port was knowingly allowing individuals smuggling guns and drugs unfettered access into Canada.

Malo would not say who tipped officers to the illicit activity. He couldn’t say how many shipments of drugs and guns may have successfully entered Canada over the course of the investigation.

“We can only speculate what was moved through the border,” he said.

Twenty-five officers worked continuously over the 13 months to collect evidence, he said.

Malo said none of the men charged are known to police. .

Malo emphasized the guard was the only CBSA employee under investigation in what was dubbed Project EPELL.

Kandola appeared in Surrey Provincial Court Friday on six charges: importing cocaine, possession for the purpose of trafficking, conspiracy to import cocaine, importing a restricted firearm, breach of trust and bribery.

Johal and Riar are each charged with importing cocaine, possession for the purpose of trafficking, conspiracy to import cocaine and importing a restricted firearm.

tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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