Drug smugglers used 'sophisticated' hiding hole for suspected cocaine in record border bust

The largest ever drug seizure at a southern Alberta border crossing was hidden in a secret trunk compartment that could only be opened by pressing buttons on an SUV's console, authorities say.

Number of buttons had to be pushed on vehicle's console to open secret compartment in trunk

Guy Rook, director of the CBSA for Southern Alberta, holds up one of 31 bricks of suspected cocaine located by border service agents in a hidden steel compartment of the SUV. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

The largest ever drug seizure at a southern Alberta border crossing — about 31 kilograms of suspected cocaine — was hidden in a secret trunk compartment that could only be opened by pressing buttons on an SUV's console, authorities say.

The joint seizure by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP happened last Saturday at the Carway crossing, located approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Lethbridge.

Guy Rook, CBSA director for southern Alberta, said a silver XTerra entering Canada on March 17 was flagged by border service agents for further inspection. 

"As they began a search of his SUV, they noticed subtle irregularities with the vehicle," he said at a news conference Thursday. 

Under a panel, agents uncovered what Rook called a "sophisticated" steel compartment built into the trunk of the vehicle.

It was determined that the compartment could only be opened by pressing a number of buttons in the vehicle's console— so agents drilled through the steel.

"White powder emerged," Rook said. "A field test of the substance was positive for narcotics."

Bradley Michael Gaudrault, 26, formerly of Fort McMurray, has been charged with two counts under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

31 kg of cocaine could sell for up to $3.1 million: RCMP

RCMP Insp. Allan Lai said the great working relationship between the RCMP and the CBSA led to the seizure. 

He said a conservative estimate for the street value of 31 kg of cocaine, if sold at the gram level, could be anywhere between $1.4 million and $3.1 million.

"Or more, depending on how it was mixed, cut and sold," he said.

Lai said the investigation is in its early stages, but it's believed the seizure is linked to organized crime.

He would not speculate as to which group was responsible, where the drugs originated or where they were headed. 

Gaudrault is set to appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court on Thursday.

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About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson