British Columbia

3 men face total of 31 charges after police bust alleged drug operation in B.C.

Three men have been charged with more than 30 criminal offences after police seized what they estimated to be $30 million in illegal drugs, as well as guns and cash, in Victoria and Metro Vancouver a little more than a year ago.

18 kg of street drugs worth an estimated $30M seized in November 2020 raids, officials say

Victoria police and B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said officers seized what they estimated to be $30 million in illegal drugs, as well as cash and firearms, in Victoria and Metro Vancouver in November 2020. (CFSEU/Supplied)

Three men have been charged with more than 30 criminal offences after police seized what they estimated to be $30 million in illegal drugs, as well as guns and cash, in Victoria and Metro Vancouver a little more than a year ago.

B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) announced the charges Thursday after a months-long investigation with Victoria police.

"[After] a year where over 2,200 people in British Columbia have died from a suspected illicit drug overdose, it is clear
that more joint operation work like this must be done to end the deaths," said Victoria police Chief Del Manak, whose officers were the first to identify the alleged drug operation in 2020.

Byran James Bella, Vu Bao Nguyen and Brent William Van Buskirk were charged this week with a total of 31 drug and firearms offences.

The men, all in their mid-30s, are being held in custody pending bail hearings.

Crime group selling fentanyl

The joint investigation into the alleged drug operation began in 2020, after Victoria police's strike force unit identified a crime group selling fentanyl in the capital that June.

They called in CFSEU after confirming the group was also working in Metro Vancouver.

Months later, on Nov. 17, Victoria police and CFSEU officers searched six homes in Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby.

In all, police said they seized roughly 18 kilograms of suspected drugs, including cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine. Ten of those 18 kilograms were high-concentration fentanyl, according to a statement.

CFSEU estimated the total street value of the drugs to be roughly $30 million.

Police said officers found "evidence of drug re-purposing and packaging for a trafficking operation," including more than 100 kilograms of cutting agents — chemicals used to dilute drugs.

They said they also seized 20 guns, three "luxury vehicles" and $385,390 in cash.

Charges approved

Crown prosecutors approved charges against Balla, Nguyen and Van Buskirk on Tuesday.

Balla, 34, faces eight counts related to alleged possession and trafficking. Originally from Calgary, Balla had been living in Victoria and was arrested Wednesday.

Nguyen, also 34, faces 10 counts for similar offences. He had been living in Surrey before his arrest Thursday morning, police said.

CFSEU said Van Buskirk, 35, was on parole for a murder conviction 2004 at the time of his arrest. His parole has now been revoked.

Originally from Vancouver, he faces 13 counts for allegedly possessing a firearm without a licence and possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

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