B.C. man arrested on Miami cruise
Published Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:27AM PDT
A Vancouver man was arrested on a cruise ship in Miami on several counts of conspiring to traffic marijuana and cocaine, in a case that has also resulted in charges against a Canadian border guard.
Charles Lai, 42, is facing up to life in prison and a $4-million fine after his arrest in Miami this week.
The arrest sprang from an investigation that began when two GMC Suburbans packed with cocaine were stopped last year on the U.S. side of the border, near the Pacific Highway Crossing.
"It was clearly a large amount of cocaine and a significant investigation for both countries," said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, told CTV News.
Just after midnight on October 25, Canadian police swooped down on the two Suburbans, finding some $7-million worth of cocaine, as well as three handguns and ammunition in one of the vehicles.
Shminder Johal, 34, and Herman Riar, 26 of Richmond are facing four criminal charges after their arrest in Canada: importing cocaine, possession for the purpose of trafficking, conspiracy to import cocaine, and importing a restricted firearm.
Baljinder Kandola, a 35-year-old resident of Surrey and a border guard for six years, was also arrested.
Police said they believe someone arranged safe passage for the two trucks through the border crossing.
Police said they later found $200,000 in Johal's Richmond residence.
But investigators from Blaine and Seattle kept looking for Lai.
On March 20, a grand jury in Seattle indicted him for counts of conspiracy to export cocaine, conspiracy to import marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The charges relate to activities over the past five years, investigators said.
When his cruise ship pulled into a Miami harbour over the weekend, investigators arrested him.
Lai is now being taken to Washington for arraignment on the indictment.
Conspiracy to export cocaine is punishable by 10 years to life in prison and a $4-million fine, while conspiracy to import marijuana is punishable by five to 40 years in prison and a $2-million fine.
Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime is punishable by an additional consecutive five-year sentence on top of any other sentence, and a $250,000 fine.