Police in Ontario say they have dismantled an alleged drug ring that was bringing millions of dollars worth of heroin, cocaine and other substances into Canada from overseas.
On Wednesday, police held a news conference to publicize the results of Project Infinity, which culminated in a series of raids on homes and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area yesterday.
During the raids in Toronto, as well as York, Durham and Peel regions, police seized $538,000 in cash, as well as six vehicles, as assets of proceeds of crime.
The Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto police and the Canada Border Services Agency were partners in the multi-year investigation, in which 24 kilograms of heroin were seized, along with cocaine, opium, crystal meth, ephedrine and ecstasy.
"It takes all of us working together to keep these drugs off our streets," OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis told reporters at the news conference in Vaughan, Ont.
Lewis said that the amount of heroin seized during the investigation was shocking.
"In 35 years on the OPP, I've never ever held a kilo of heroin in my hand and I've worked on a lot of investigations," he said. "But these are huge numbers, even for Toronto."
Police estimate that $79 million worth of illegal drugs were seized during Project Infinity, all of which were headed to “high-level distributors.”
Heroin hidden in carpets
The roots of Project Infinity began when 15 kilograms of heroin were found hidden inside carpets that had been shipped to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in June 2010. It had been woven into the fabric.
"This is very intricate, obviously it takes a lot of time and effort to do that," Toronto police Det. Jason Coulthard said Wednesday, when asked whether he had ever seen a similarly time-consuming attempt to hide drugs.
Over time, police managed to intercept other major drug shipments that were bound for the Canadian market:
- In May of 2011, Peruvian authorities intercepted a kilogram of cocaine that was supposed to be sent to Canada.
- In June of 2011, 4.8 kilograms of heroin were found inside a crate sent to Pearson International Airport. The crate had been marked as a gift of crockery and decorations.
- In July of 2011, U.S. Customs intercepted a package that had been sent from Guatemala and which was intended to reach Canada. The package contained a wooden clock that had a quarter-kilogram of cocaine hidden inside.
- In November 2012, the Canada Border Services Agency seized 160.5 kilograms of ephedrine that was masked in vanilla powder.
- In March 2013, the Canada Border Services Agency seized 1.45 kilograms of heroin hidden between two silver plates at Hamilton’s John C. Munro Airport.
The raids that took place on Tuesday at the end of Project Infinity have led to charges against 11 individuals. Six other people were charged in connection with a "spinoff investigation" ahead of Tuesday’s raids.
According to information posted on the OPP website, the accused in Project Infinity range in age from 24 to 48.
The majority of the accused are from the Greater Toronto Area, though one is from London, England.
Police are glad to have pulled illegal drugs off the street, but they are under no illusion that their work is over.
"They will go on. Not necessarily these people, but somebody else is in the wings right now, waiting to move in and we’re waiting to detect them," Toronto police Staff Insp. Randy Franks said.