Pubdate: Tue, 12 Sep 2006
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


At almost 12 tonnes, it was the biggest hashish bust in B.C. history
and the court case unfolded like a high-speed, high-seas whodunit
ending on Vancouver Island.

Now the B.C. Court of Appeal, in a decision released Monday, has
affirmed the decisions of a provincial court judge who convicted most
of the would-be drug smugglers with sentences ranging from 21/2 to six
years in prison.

Out on bail during their appeal, convicted smugglers surrendered
themselves Monday morning to authorities in Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The story became public on Nov. 4, 1998, when RCMP moved in to Fanny
Bay during the early morning and arrested men loading a dumptruck with
bales of hashish -- 9.59 tonnes -- removed off a fishboat, the Ansare

Hours later, in international waters about 540 nautical miles
northwest of Port Hardy, the U.S. Coast Guard boarded a recommissioned
scallop dragger, the Blue Dawn. The Americans were quickly followed by
RCMP and Canadian Forces sailors off HMCS Huron. Two Canadians were
arrested and a further 2.35 tonnes of hashish was seized.

In all, 14 people were arrested and charged.

Five, mostly involved with unloading and attempted distribution, went
to court in Nanaimo in 2000 and wound up with prison terms ranging
from three to four years. Nine others were prosecuted in Vancouver,
including the seven people who were the subject of Monday's Court of
Appeal decision.

Police work began in the early spring of 1997 when the RCMP drug squad
in Vancouver was tipped that a group from B.C. was in Yarmouth, N. S.
The group was refitting an aged scallop dragger named Blue Dawn with
massive new fuel tanks and giving it a general overhaul that, given
the state of the vessel, made little financial sense.

Police in Europe and the Middle East were alerted. When the Blue Dawn
arrived in the Greek island of Crete, the Mounties were notified.
Enlisting the help of the Hellenistic Coast Guard of Greece, police
secretly attached a satellite tracking device to the Blue Dawn and
what police called "Project E-Profit" was underway.

Police traced the Blue Dawn as it left Crete and sailed on to Sri
Lanka and Thailand. The vessel then sailed back on its path and
stopped near Indonesia before heading through the Strait of Malacca,
past Singapore and directly on to B.C.

Meanwhile, in August 1997 the RCMP Vancouver Island Drug Section had
initiated another investigation acting on a tip into what they
believed was an impending off-load of a large quantity of hashish.
They dubbed this investigation "Project E-Paiute." It wasn't until
October 1998, that investigators realized they were all dealing with
one drug-smuggling operation.

Late that month a Canadian Armed Forces Aurora aircraft from 407
Squadron in Comox flew 24 missions to track the Blue Dawn and noted
its meeting with a vessel first dubbed "Blue Buddy."

An RCMP Caravan surveillance plane identified Blue Buddy as the Ansare
II and followed it around the northern tip of Vancouver Island, south
through Johnstone Strait and ultimately into Fanny Bay. Meanwhile, the
Canadian Forces Aurora went back to tracking the Blue Dawn until it
was boarded.

After the vessels and their cargoes were seized police executed search
warrants on residences, hotel rooms, vehicles, workplaces, other
vessels, a rented cabin in Bowser and a rented warehouse in Parksville.

The trial in B.C. provincial court in Vancouver took three years. All
the accused were convicted of possession of hashish for the purpose of
trafficking and/or importing hashish.

Sanford Hately, captain of the Blue Dawn, was sentenced to six years.
Kurt Patrick Guilbride, five, Ronald Thomson, four, Richard
Farrington, 31/2, Kenneth Thomson, 21/2, Joel Hately, 21/2. All
surrendered themselves Monday.

Also appealing was Sylvie Goyer, sentenced to four years. Goyer has
already served her time. Ronald Grant was also convicted and has
served his sentence. Wolfgang Fitznar fled the country during the
trial and has not been found.
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