By Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun
JUMP for the full story and more photos of the drug bust.
METRO VANCOUVER — Police seized more than $9 million worth of cocaine and meth in a massive undercover operation that culminated last week.
Three men, including a Mexican national, are charged with conspiracy to import cocaine.
The trio — Mexican Eduardo Gonzalez, 32, Vancouver’s Francisco Gomez, 51 and 42-year old Jason Lawrence, also of Vancouver — were not known to police before the current investigation, which began last June.
The men are alleged to have smuggled 275 kilos of cocaine and methamphetamine, baked into paving stones and garden fountains, in seven shipping containers through the Port of Vancouver.
The Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP’s Federal Drug Enforcement Branch and the Vancouver Police Department participated in the investigation.
Stacks of meth, cocaine and cash stuffed into clear plastic evidence bags were on display at E Division headquarters in Vancouver Tuesday surrounded by undercover police involved in the investigation.
The drug probe is the same one that shut down buses for several hours last week when heavily-armed police stopped a vehicle in front of the Vancouver Transit Centre.
“We sympathize with the inconvenience that last Monday’s police actions may have caused, but trust that people understand how safety and security must always be our first priorities,” RCMP Supt. Brian Cantera said Tuesday.
Cantera, who heads the B.C. drug enforcement branch, said investigators are still trying to figure out who the accused were connected to locally. Police here are also working with law enforcement agencies in Mexico to determine who was behind the huge shipment.
In early September, the border agents had suspicions about the containers and sent the contents for secondary inspection. When some of the bricks were broken, the cocaine was discovered, CBSA official Colleen Pinvidic said.
Six people were arrested last week, though just three of them are facing charges.
Cantera said the investigation also including the execution of search warrants last week to get inside a Vancouver warehouse and three residences.
“The amount and value of drugs and cash in this investigation leaves little doubt that organized crime is involved,” Cantera said. “In total, 212 kilograms of cocaine, 63 kilograms of methamphetamine and more than $17,000 in cash have been taken out of the hands of drug dealers. The value of the drugs is estimated between $8,700,000 and $9,700,000.”
But he also told reporters Tuesday that “enforcement alone is not enough.”
“The RCMP believes in a balanced approach, including education, awareness and enforcement. Raising awareness helps protect individuals from becoming victims,” he said.
“The RCMP can not work in isolation and we need the public’s’ help at all levels. Any information the public can provide keeps the police connected to their communities. Information from the public can help advance our investigations and locate those responsible for committing crimes in our communities.”
Shouts to G for the hook up.