Pubdate: Tue, 30 Oct 2007
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 South Fraser Publishing Ltd.
Author: Tom Zytaruk, Surrey Now


Has organized crime infiltrated Canada's border system?

Authorities are going out of their way to suggest not, despite a
Surrey border guard's recent arrest for allegedly trying to help
smuggle a pile of cocaine into the country from the U.S.

Canada Border Services Agency officer Baljinder Kandola, 35, of
Surrey, is accused of helping to smuggle $6 million in cocaine as well
as guns into Canada through the Pacific Highway border crossing.

Kandola was on inspection duty at the time of his arrest and has been
a Canada Border Services Agency officer for the past six years.

He's charged with importing cocaine into Canada, possession for
trafficking, conspiring to import cocaine into Canada, importing a
restricted firearm into Canada, breach of trust and bribery.

He and two alleged accomplices were arrested by the RCMP emergency
response team just after midnight, October 25, following a
13-month-long investigation. He's accused of waving two suburbans into
Canada, driven by Richmond residents Shminder Johal and Herman Riar.

During the arrest, police seized 208 kilograms of cocaine, a Hechler
Koch 9 mm pistol, a Hechler Koch .45 calibre pistol, a Sturn Ruger &
Co. .44 magnum revolver and 40 rounds of .45-calibre bullets from one
of the vehicles. Later, the suspects' residences were searched and
police seized about $200,000 in Canadian cash from Johal's home.

Both Johal, 34, and Riar, 26, face the same charge as Kandola with the
exception of the bribery and breach of trust charges.

The CBSA in Surrey has had a rough ride lately with these high-profile
smuggling arrests coming on the heels of Douglas Crossing border guard
Daniel Greenhalgh being charged with sexually assaulting three women.

But Russ Hiebert, Conservative MP for South Surrey-White
Rock-Cloverdale, a riding containing the two crossings, sees "a
success story" in this.

"I'm quite proud of the fact these kinds of issues are being
addressed," he told the Now. "I look at this as a success story. It
just shows how our government, the efforts that we've taken to crack
down on guns, gangs and drug-related crimes is working."

"If anything," he added, "it shows the reforms we're making are
working. This clearly sends the message that if you break the law
you'll get caught. The efforts of the law enforcement were successful.
It sends a very strong message that this will not be tolerated. Again,
it's a success story."

Inspector Dan Malo, of the RCMP's border integrity unit, said Kandola
was the primary inspector on duty that night and added police believe
the crossing had been previously arranged.

"This quantity of drugs was going to organized crime in Canada,
there's no question about that," he said. He wouldn't reveal, however,
which gang police believe were involved. Police won't say what tipped
them off.

"We know that this was destined to organized crime here in the Lower
Mainland," Malo said. The $6 million figure is the drug's estimated
wholesale value, he added. It'd be worth a lot more broken down.

"We didn't bring this down to the profits you would make right down to
the street level."

Malo said the two suburbans went through the commercial port of entry
when Kandola was working in the booth.

"This officer cleared both individuals," he alleged. "Soon after,
these individuals were arrested."

Malo emphasized that the 13-month investigation focused on the one
guard only. None of the three accused has a prior criminal record, he

"This investigation does not reflect on the integrity of the men and
women of Canada Border Services Agency," he said.

Malo alleged "organized crime closely infiltrated this individual. I
think you have to see it as this particular individual; that organized
crime worked with this particular border services officer, and I don't
think you can make any ties past that."

Kim Scoville, director of Pacific Highway District of the Canada
Border Services Agency (CBSA), said his outfit will "adjust
accordingly" as a result of the arrests but said he sees no need to
double up officers at the inspection booths.

He called the alleged crime "quite rare."

"This is one investigation involving one officer," he said. "It's
extremely disheartening, it's extremely frustrating and extremely
disappointing for all of the officers.

"I'd like to emphasize that this is a incident involving a single
officer," he reiterated.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek