HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Smuggling On Rise
Pubdate: Sat, 15 Mar 2008
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Trevor Pritchard


Police Step Up Enforcement Efforts In Cornwall Area Since Record Bust
Last Year

CORNWALL - One year ago last Friday, Det. Sgt. Paul Wells stood in a
municipal hall in Embrun and announced that one of the largest
marijuana grow ops in Eastern Ontario's history had been dismantled.

Eight people were arrested in the March 6, 2007 raid on a former
mushroom factory just north of Moose Creek. Police seized 3,100 plants
with an estimated street value of $3.1 million.

It was a bust that made headlines across Ontario. In the eyes of law
enforcement agencies, it was proof that cigarette smuggling isn't the
only illegal industry on the rise in Eastern Ontario.

"It (the marijuana trade) has increased significantly, just because of
the profits and the limited risk," said Wells, an investigator with
the OPP's drug enforcement section.

According to RCMP, police in the Central St. Lawrence Valley region
seized about 1,570 kg of marijuana on both sides of the U.S.-Canada
border between 2004 and 2006.

In 2007, that figure soared to 720 kg -- almost half the amount seized
in the previous three years.


There's no doubt that many organized crime groups turn to the drug
trade to help fund cigarette smuggling operations, says Sgt. Michael
Harvey, an RCMP officer with the Central St. Lawrence Valley detachment.

The Cornwall area is attractive to organized crime, Harvey believes,
for two major reasons: Its proximity to the Akwesasne border crossing
and the St. Lawrence River, as well as the fact many of the groups
have established smuggling routes in place.

"Look at how close this area is to New York City, to Toronto, to
Montreal," says Harvey.

After the marijuana is grown, it's smuggled across the border and sold
for up to $4,000 a pound "depending on how far south it goes," says
Harvey, adding that those profits are then laundered through cigarette
factories on the U.S. side of Akwesasne.

"You know how the boatloads of cigarettes go north? With marijuana,
the boatloads of (drugs) go south."

At the time of the North Stormont bust last March, Wells said it had
"all the tell-tale signs" of an organized crime operation.

The first floor of the two-storey warehouse contained a kitchen and
dormitory-style beds, while the second floor had 12 rooms devoted to
producing marijuana.

"We come across a couple of large scale warehouse operations (every so
often)," says Wells.

"(But more popular) are everyday homes," he continues. "Elevated
bungalows are particularly attractive for growers because they've got
the large open basements."


In 2007, the RCMP allowed armed U.S. Coast Guard officials to be
stationed on boats patrolling the St. Lawrence River. Dubbed Project
Shiprider, the summer-long operation resulted in the seizure of about
100 kg of marijuana.

"We feel that it's the right direction to go, and there should be more
international operations like that," says Harvey.
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