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Cablegate: Narcotics Smugglers Still Working the U.S.-Canada Border

VZCZCXRO4948
RR RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHON #0448/01 3171528
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131528Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2253
INFO RUCNCAN/ALCAN COLLECTIVE
RUEWMCS/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
RUEPINS/HQ BICE INTEL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TORONTO 000448

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SNAR KCRM CA
SUBJECT: Narcotics Smugglers Still Working the U.S.-Canada Border

REF: Toronto 90

Sensitive but Unclassified - protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Drug smuggling continues to be a major challenge
for Ontario law enforcement. Organized criminal groups smuggle
ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana in and out of Canada on a regular
basis, trying to exploit seams along the lengthy shared border with
the United States, and Pearson International Airport--a major North
American air hub. Information-sharing and operational cooperation
between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies has been key to
several recent significant arrests and seizures on both sides of the
border. END SUMMARY.

----------------------
Border Vulnerabilities
----------------------

2. (U) The lengthy Ontario-U.S. border remains vulnerable to drug
trafficking. In July 2007, cooperation between the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), Chicago Police, and the Toronto Police Service
led to the successful dismantling of a large high-grade marijuana
smuggling organization and blocked a previously unknown smuggling
route between Canada and United States. According to media reports,
the accused drove through St. Joseph Island, near Sault Ste. Marie,
and crossed the river to Michigan's upper peninsula where they were
caught by U.S. authorities. The operation netted 13 arrests, more
than 1,000 pounds of high-quality marijuana (with a wholesale value
of over US$4 million), 85 pounds of cocaine, and US$350,000 in cash.
Four residents of Sterling Heights, Michigan have been charged with
conspiracy to import marijuana into United States. In related
action, Canadian police seized about US$41,000 in cash, C$487,000 in
cash, 1,000 pounds of high-quality marijuana valued at C$3,000,000,
and one kilo of cocaine valued at C$30,000 in raids in the Greater
Toronto Area and British Columbia on July 5, 2007. 24 people were
arrested for numerous drug and weapons related offences.

---------------------------------------
Pearson Airport: A Drug Trafficking Hub
---------------------------------------

3. (U) In counter-narcotics operations at Toronto's Pearson
International Airport, Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP
seized 100 kilos of drugs worth C$10.5 million on April 16, 2007 --
one of the largest drug seizures ever at Pearson. 40 kilos of
cocaine and 61 kilos of hash oil were found under the cargo area
floor of a SkyService jet returning from Jamaica. On May 20, the
RCMP seized 75,000 doses of heroin worth about C$24 million at
Pearson and in Scarborough. Three Toronto residents are facing
charges. Police say the investigation, which began last December,
specifically targeted female drug couriers smuggling heroin from
Colombia. Police note that Southeast Asia has been a more typical
point of origin for smuggled heroin. All three suspects are also
alleged members of an Asian organized crime and drug trafficking
network in Toronto, raising suspicions among Canadian law
enforcement officials that Colombian drug syndicates have formed an
alliance with Asian crime groups to distribute heroin in Toronto.

4. (U) The Toronto Airport Drug Enforcement Unit charged eight
people with trafficking approximately 39 kilos of ecstasy tablets, 3
kilos of cocaine, 8 pounds of marijuana, and C$106,000 in cash on
July 19, 2007. Police say that this group had members working within
the airport who were able to utilize their positions to facilitate
the movement of drugs and money. In conjunction with the Pearson
investigation, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents
in Atlanta, Houston, and Hartford seized MDMA that originated from
the Toronto area. Four employees of two different companies at
Pearson were charged with theft-related offences by Peel Regional
Police in the incident.

5. (U) Six Pearson employees separately were arrested on drug
trafficking charges on June 13, 2007. The arrests were part of a
larger operation that resulted in 95 arrests for allegedly smuggling
drugs into Canada from the United States. The smuggling activity is
reportedly connected to the North York, Ontario branch of the Los
Angeles-based gang "Driftwood Crips." The RCMP seized 30 kilos of
cocaine at Pearson during the investigation. During the predawn
raids across the Greater Toronto Area on June 13, police seized
firearms, ammunition, and more than C$2 million in cocaine,
marijuana, and other drugs. The operation involved more than 700
officers from the Toronto Police Services, RCMP, and Ontario
Provincial Police (OPP).

6. (U) On October 16, 2007, CBSA officials at Pearson intercepted
nine kilos of liquid hash and more than 16 kilos of marijuana in a
shipment of fresh produce from the Caribbean. In total, officers
intercepted 13 packages of liquid hashish worth more than C$320,000
and 15 individual packages of marijuana worth in excess of
C$325,000. No arrests have been made in this case though the RCMP

TORONTO 00000448 002 OF 003


is still investigating. On the same day, CBSA officers discovered
seven kilos of cocaine worth C$875,000 inside a bag that arrived on
a flight from Saint Vincent, in the Caribbean. In this case, the
RCMP arrested a 38-year-old woman. On October 21, CBSA intercepted
more than six kilos of cocaine (valued at about C$757,000) inside an
unclaimed bag that arrived from Panama.

---------------------------------
Organized Crime-Bike Gang exposed
---------------------------------

7. (U) Earlier this spring, on April 7, the OPP-led inter-agency
Biker Enforcement Unit and the Halton Regional Police Tactical
Rescue Unit arrested 31 people in connection with alleged criminal
activities of the Hell's Angels and Bacchus Motorcycle Club. Police
seized C$996,000 worth of GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate, a common
"date rape" drug), C$982,800 worth of cocaine, and C$48,000 worth of
hashish.

------------------------------------------
European and North African Mob Connections
------------------------------------------

8. (U) On July 5, 2007, police seized 1,000 pounds of marijuana in
raids on 29 houses across Canada. The raids were an effort to
disrupt the Canadian operations of Eastern European criminal
organizations. The organization had been smuggling marijuana from
Canada to the U.S. and importing cocaine from the U.S. to Canada.
The marijuana was shipped from British Columbia to Ontario and then
across the border into Michigan. The group also smuggled cocaine
into Canada from the U.S. Police also seized more than C$500,000 in
Canadian and U.S. cash, three handguns, and two stolen vehicles. 24
Canadian residents of Romanian, Hungarian, and Algerian descent have
been charged.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Organized crime--RCMP and ICE bust international ring
--------------------------------------------- --------

9. (U) A ten-month long investigation with U.S. ICE agents led the
RCMP to arrest 11 Toronto-area residents for drug trafficking in
September 2007. Approximately 325 pounds of marijuana, 9 houses, 9
vehicles, and over C$350,000 in cash were seized by Canadian police,
while ICE seized US$5.7 million in cash, 150 pounds of cocaine, and
800 pounds of marijuana. Authorities allege that the marijuana and
cocaine were destined for transport across the U.S.-Canada border.
ICE arrested 12 people in the U.S.

-----------------------------
Ontario Combats Crystal Meth
-----------------------------

10. (U) On June 25 Ontario Community Safety and Correctional
Services Minister Monte Kwinter announced the province would
allocate C$2 Million to fight the production, trafficking, and use
of crystal methamphetamine. Crystal meth is one of the most
addictive street drugs and among the hardest addictions to treat.
C$1.5 million will boost OPP staffing and equipment. Fire
departments across Ontario will use the remaining C$500,000 for
investigations related to crystal meth labs and marijuana growing
operations. The city of Stratford will also receive a special
allocation of C$1 million for drug prevention and treatment programs
in south central Ontario.

------------------------------------
"Grow-Op" Industry Continues to Boom
------------------------------------

11. (U) Marijuana "grow-ops" are a multi-billion dollar business
across Ontario. In the Niagara region alone in 2006, 45 grow-ops
were busted and C$7 million worth of marijuana seized. The Ontario
Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) estimates 85% of grow-ops are
connected to organized crime. It can cost as little as C$25,000 for
the hydroponics, lighting, and chemicals needed to start a full
scale grow-op, while a single plant can produce C$1,000 worth of
drugs within just a few months.

12. (U) Guelph police arrested two people on July 25, 2007 after
discovering 600 plants and hydroponic equipment in their residence
during an early morning raid. Like most grow ops, the location was
in a quiet, suburban area unlikely to attract attention.

13. (U) 20 unusually tall marijuana plants, up to 8 feet tall and
valued at C$20,000 were seized from a house in Guelph on September
5. Guelph Police charged the man who grew them with possession for
the purpose of trafficking.

14. (U) The Kawartha Combined Forces Drug Unit and OPP officers
discovered C$10 million worth of marijuana in a private house in

TORONTO 00000448 003 OF 003


Peterborough County on September 9. Three Mississauga-area residents
were arrested. During 2007 Peel Regional Police (in the Greater
Toronto Area) dismantled more than 40 illicit drug manufacturing
operations.

---------------------------
Other Notable Drug Seizures
---------------------------

15. (U) More than C$20 million worth of ecstasy was seized from
Toronto's McCowan Road/Steeles Avenue area on March 6, 2007. A
large amount of caffeine-used as a fixing agent in manufacturing
ecstasy-was also seized. Used properly, the fixing agent would
double the street value of the drug, to approximately C$43 million.
Four people were charged.

16. (U) The OPP seized 673 pounds of marijuana and 30 pounds of
marijuana "shake"(marijuana which has had the stems and seeds
removed), worth C$1.4 million from a residence, in Toronto on
September 14, 2007. Two men were charged after an unrelated search
in rural Bruce County on the same day resulted in the discovery of
198 marijuana plants worth C$198,000.

17. (U) A music teacher at a Waterloo public school was charged with
trafficking along with her husband, a one time soccer star and
former Olympian on June 15. A raid on their home in Waterloo netted
8.5 kilos of marijuana, 3,000 ecstasy pills, drug paraphernalia, and
more than C$11,000 and US$6,000 in cash. The marijuana and ecstasy
were valued at C$85,000 and C$30,000, respectively. The teacher's
husband was arrested in Port Huron, Michigan, after allegedly trying
to smuggle almost six kilos of marijuana into the U.S. The drug
bust was a combined effort of local police, the RCMP, ICE, and the
Illinois State Police.

18. (SBU) Comment: Ontario-based law enforcement agencies are
working hard to combat illegal drug smuggling. The volume and
frequency of illicit drug seizures in the Greater Toronto Area and
along the U.S.-Ontario border demonstrate the continued
profitability, particularly for organized criminal groups, of the
trans-border drug trade. Recent significant seizures on both sides
of the border illustrate that information sharing and operational
cooperation between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies is
helping to stem the flow of drugs, guns, and illicit cash across the
border.

NAY

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