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B.C. drug smuggler fled to India to avoid 15-year prison sentence: RCMP

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Canadian authorities are asking Interpol to issue a "red notice" for the arrest of a Surrey, B.C., man who was convicted of smuggling cocaine into Canada but allegedly fled to India to avoid prison.

If granted, the "red notice" would ask foreign police agencies to arrest Raj Kumar Mehmi, a 60-year-old truck driver who was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for possessing and importing 80 kilograms of cocaine through the Pacific Highway border crossing near Vancouver.

A Canada-wide warrant has also been issued for Mehmi's arrest.

The Surrey man was initially caught at the border in November 2017 while driving a semi-trailer he owned with the sealed bricks of cocaine hidden inside.

"The truck had been randomly selected for a secondary examination" when the cocaine was found inside the truck's sleeper cab, Holly Stoner, director of the Canada Border Services Agency's Pacific region, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

The RCMP's federal serious and organized crime unit estimated the street value of the drugs at $3.2 million.

Mehmi was found guilty one charge each of importing a controlled substance and possessing a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking in September 2022.

Raj Kumar Mehmi was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison for possessing and importing 80 kilograms of cocaine through the Peace Arch border crossing. (RCMP)

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for this past January, however authorities say Mehmi boarded a flight from Vancouver to New Delhi on Oct. 11, 2022, and has not returned to Canada.

Despite his absence, he was sentenced last month in Surrey provincial court to nine years for the importation charge and six years for possession. 

MEHMI FLED ON SECOND PASSPORT

An RCMP spokesperson says Mehmi's Canadian passport was seized by Mounties and turned over to Passport Canada at the time of his arrest. However, due to the length of time between his arrest and conviction, Mehmi was able to legally obtain another passport through Passport Canada, which he ultimately used to flee.

"The RCMP and CBSA took all measures available to us within the legal framework," said Cpl. Arash Seyed of the RCMP's federal serious and organized crime unit. "If he were flagged and found to be a flight risk then we would have enforced that."

The latest data available from Statistics Canada indicates cocaine use has steadily increased since 2020, and has contributed "significantly" to accidental drug toxicity deaths in B.C., and Canada overall.

"With about half of the toxic drug deaths in B.C. involving stimulants such as cocaine, this significant drug seizure," RCMP Supt. Bert Ferreira told reporters. "The resulting criminal conviction of the person responsible demonstrates our firm commitment to keeping Canadians safe."

The Surrey man was initially caught at the border in November 2017 while driving a semi-trailer he owned with the sealed bricks of cocaine hidden inside. (RCMP)

Seyed said the quantity of cocaine seized suggests the involvement of organized crime.

"In this case we got ahead of it, but obviously the person convicted has escaped," he added. "If he is found and arrested, there is a process that will follow with our international partners – India being a member of Interpol, as well – and we would be looking at an extradition process."

Investigators describe Mehmi as standing approximately 6' tall and weighing 200 pounds. His sentence includes a lifetime ban on possessing firearms and restricted weapons.

Anyone who sees Mehmi, or has information on his whereabouts, is urged not to approach him. Instead, witnesses and tipsters can contact local police or report what they know anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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