Police in St. John's said Friday that as many as 10 of the 14 people arrested in drug raids on Thursday are associated withthe Hells Angels biker gang, which is heavily involved in the illegal drug trade in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said on Thursday that the raids "dismantled an organized criminal operation" that ran between Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. The undercover police operation, dubbed Operation Roadrunner, resulted in seizure of 23 kilogramsof marijuana, nine kilograms of cocaine, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The operation was an 18-month collaboration between the RNC and police in Quebec.
Eleven men and one woman in the St. John's area were arrested and faced charges in court Thursday of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and marijuana, and trafficking in cocaine and marijuana. They are from 22 to 38 years old.
Two men were also arrested in La Tuque and Laval, Que., during a co-ordinated raid, Const. Paul Davis said Thursday. RNC Chief Joe Browne confirmed Friday that one of those men is Marc-Andre Hinse, the head of a Hells Angels chapter in Trois-Rivières, Que.
Hinse, 36, is on the most-wanted list in Quebec for trafficking narcotics and police said they have been searching for him since 2004.
An undercover police officer, who is not being identified to protect his safety, spoke with CBC News about the investigation Friday. He said increasing violence near bars in downtown St. John's sparked the investigation.
"In this instance it was directly related to the cocaine trade and the sale and the use of cocaine in and around George Street," the officer said.
Browne said the investigation began in May and involved police from Quebec, Vancouver and Alberta.
"We've interrupted a significant flow of drugs in this province. Now we are going to be busy watching what happens to fill the void here," Browne told reporters at a press conference Friday. "There is not going to be a lot of downtime for these officers, they are going to turn their focus to other groups and other ways that drugs are entering this province."
Browne said police expect more organized crime in Newfoundland and Labrador as wealth from the oil industry develops.