Pubdate: Wed, 08 Mar 2006
Source: Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 BC Newspaper Group and New Media Development
Author: Monique Tamminga
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Surrey resident Timothy Woo is expected to plead guilty this month for
his role in digging the first drug-smuggling tunnel under the
Canada/U.S. border.

Woo, who originally pleaded not guilty, is the last of the three
charged to enter a guilty plea. Francis Devandra Raj and Jonathan
Valenzuela have pled guilty. All three men are facing at least five
years in prison and a maximum fine of $2 million when they are
sentenced for conspiracy to smuggle marijuana. They are all making
appearances this month in a District Court in Seattle.

The three Surrey men were arrested by American authorities as they
emerged from the tunnel on the U.S. side of the border in July 2005.
The men were allegedly carrying 200 pounds of B.C. bud.

The investigation into the tunnel started in Canada in February 2005,
when local authorities tipped off Americans that a group of known
suspects were planning to build a tunnel.

The tunnel was dug by hand over eight months and stretched more than
350 feet underneath 0 Avenue to the floor of a farm house in Lynden,
Washington. The sophisticated tunnel was built with re-bar and wood
beam supports.

After the bust, Langley Township sealed the Canadian side of the
tunnel with cement and foam at a cost of $35,000 to taxpayers. The
Township is looking to recover those costs through the sale of the
Aldergrove acreage.

Raj is the listed owner of the Canadian property which went up for
sale a few months ago for $599,900. The property is foreclosed by
Olympia Trust Co. of Vancouver.

Once the property is sold people are paid out in priority, said the
listing realtor Royal LePage's Paola Oliviero. The mortgage is paid
first, then taxes are paid on the property and any arrears, which is
where the Township could recoup its money. Then lawyers and realtors
are paid.

The Raj family is also looking to be reimbursed for money they loaned
the accused to buy the place.

The 3.79 acre property has a small farm house, with approximately
40,000 square feet of greenhouse plus a workshop and outbuildings,
including the notorious quonset that the tunnel started from.

Valenzuela appeared in court on Monday and Raj will appear March 16.
Both appearances are regarding their guilty pleas. Woo is set to plead
guilty March 20.

According to American media reports, three senators introduced a bill
last Wednesday that will make financing or building a cross-border
tunnel punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Currently, it is illegal to avoid examination at the border, tunneling
is not specifically a crime.
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