More details are emerging about a police sting that spanned three major Canadian cities and spanned two years, and sources have told CBC it could be one of the largest drug seizures in Winnipeg’s history.
Multiple people in Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver have now been arrested in what law enforcement officials are calling Project Sideshow, a lengthy investigation into organized crime and drug trafficking.
About two years ago, Winnipeg police began building a case against men and women suspected of drug trafficking and using ATMs to launder money.
Wire taps were used, a police technique called “sneak and peeks” and surveillance video was gathered about cocaine coming into the city.
On Wednesday, Winnipeg police raided numerous homes across the city, while police in Ontario and B.C. did the same.
A number of arrests were made in Winnipeg, and several ATMs were seized — some, sources tell CBC, were ripped right out of the ground.
An ATM at the former Republic Nightclub on Princess Street and another at Opera Ultra Lounge on Main Street were taken by police.
Another was taken from The Club on Arlington Street. The brother of the owner of that bar said his brother purchased the business just a few months ago, and the ATM was already there. The pair had no idea the machine was allegedly being used to launder money.
Sources have told CBC officers also obtained search warrants to intercept multiple kilograms of cocaine at the Winnipeg airport during the investigation, to build proof drug smuggling was going on. Officers believe the drugs were being brought into Winnipeg from Vancouver and Toronto.
Those bags were returned, and according to sources, allegedly distributed by suspects to associates in nearby hotel rooms.
CBC News has learned a total of 20 people are expected to be arrested.
The man accused of being at the centre of the organization, Oliver Banayos, has already been arrested and is facing multiple drugs and weapons charges.
Banayos is facing 12 charges including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and trafficking.
Arrest warrants have been issued for several individuals in more than three other Canadian cities, but Winnipeg police are remaining mum about the project.
Police said they may release more information about the raids next week.