Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2016
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Page: A12


B.C.'s top court says officer lied about being under threat to help

Invoking a rarely used investigative procedure, B.C.'s top court has
caught and hammered an airport security officer-turned-drug trafficker
who pulled the wool over the eyes of his trial judge.

The Court of Appeal said the offender sold Provincial Court judge
James Bahen a load of hokum about a mysterious, threatening "Mr. X"
and the extent of his own regret.

Having set about to "deceive the sentencing judge, his assertion of
genuine remorse rings hollow," it found, concluding Gurvinder Singh
Pahl hadn't received his just desserts.

He "lied to the psychologist, lied to his counsel, and lied under
oath," and was "content to have his counsel unknowingly mislead the
sentencing judge."

It is likely he even lied to those who submitted letters of support
"to minimize his role and culpability in their eyes," the division

"Those entrusted with security at our airports must know that breaches
of that trust will have significant penal consequences," Justice David
Frankel wrote with the support of Chief Justice Robert Bauman and
Justice Nicole Garson.

Back in May 2011, a 20-year-old passenger was nabbed at a U.S.
departure gate in Vancouver International Airport carrying a knapsack
stuffed with nearly 15 kilos of ecstasy (a.k.a. MDMA).

Pahl, a security officer, had used his position to bypass the
screening system and deliver the $700,000 worth of drugs to the
courier destined for Los Angeles.

At the time, the 24-year-old was an employee of the Canadian Air
Transport Security Authority; he was also on probation for credit card

Pahl pleaded guilty and submitted a psychologist's report that claimed
he was smuggling because a Mr. X threatened to harm him and his family
because of an unpaid $20,000 debt.

His lawyer expanded on that make-believe based on what Pahl told him,
a far-fetched story about buying a BMW from Oregon.

The judge bought it - finding the duress mitigated Pahl's
blameworthiness, that he was remorseful and his rehabilitation
prospects good. It was a crock.

The Crown appealed, saying Pahl was a lying piece of goo and as a
repeat trafficker deserved more than five years' imprisonment.

The prosecution pointed to Pahl's statements to a cell-plant after his
arrest that he had smuggled drugs through airport security on four
previous occasions.

Pahl insisted those boasts were pure bravado - him playing the big man
to gain jail cred, that he lied to protect himself.

The tough-nosed appeal justices smelled a rat.

There was no evidence to support the near-duress explanation, the
panel quickly concluded. But there were factual issues concerning both
"aggravating and mitigating factors that needed to be resolved before
the fitness of the five-year sentence could be determined."

As a result, the court used a little-cited section of the Criminal
Code to appoint Provincial Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree as a special
commissioner to conduct an evidentiary hearing. That happened in August.

Pahl told Crabtree he gave the money he received from Mr. X for the
car to his fiancee Sonia Gill to deliver to the seller's brother. She
gave the bag of money to a man at a Surrey shopping mall.

When the vehicle did not arrive - the villains! - Pahl and Gill went
to the Richmond RCMP, who told them there was nothing they could do.

Apparently, after the putative rip-off, Pahl became stressed and Gill
said saw a threatening text message on his phone, seemingly from Mr.

Crabtree called balderdash.

He described Pahl as "evasive and non-committal as to who Mr. 'X' was"
and his testimony as "vague and lacking in detail." Gill "lacks
credibility and cannot be relied upon," Crabtree noted.

"I find that Mr. Pahl's explanation of the indebtedness and the failed
vehicle purchase transaction giving rise to Mr. 'X's' threatening
behaviour towards Mr. Pahl and his family is not credible and I do not
accept it …. In my mind, the explanation defies common sense."

Absent evidence other than the cell conversation, however, Crabtree
also concluded the Crown had failed to prove Pahl previously smuggled

The appeal panel concluded Pahl's deception of Judge Bahen erased any
notion of remorse or rehabilitation being mitigating factors.

Justice Frankel upped Pahl's sentence to seven years - the maximum for
exporting ecstasy is 10 years.

"The successful corruption of airport workers, who accept money in
return for breaching the trust imposed in them by virtue of their
position, significantly increases the moral culpability of the
offender beyond that of a 'mere courier' who poses as a tourist and
boards an airplane," he said.

"In addition, this kind of offence represents a threat to airport and
border security, matters in which there is a high public interest,
because it sends the message that an important Canadian institution is
open to bribery and corruption."
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