Brandon police say drug bust could be among largest ever in Manitoba

Officers who pulled two men over near Brandon, Man., for unlawful transportation of liquor say they found 76 kilograms of illegal drugs, with a street value of up to $30 million, in the back of the vehicle.

2 men from Ontario were transporting 50 kg of ecstasy, 26 kg of substances mixed with fentanyl: Brandon police

Brandon police seized about 50 kilograms of MDMA and 26 kilograms of various substances mixed with fentanyl this week. (Submitted by Brandon Police Service)

Police in Brandon say a traffic stop on the Trans-Canada highway led to what may be one of the largest — if not the largest — drug busts in Manitoba's history.

Brandon police said an officer made a traffic stop just outside the city, which is located about 200 kilometres west of Winnipeg, on Tuesday afternoon, and spotted open liquor.

After searching the vehicle, police said the officer found 76 kilograms of illegal drugs in the back of the vehicle.

Combined, the wholesale value of the drugs is over $3 million if sold by the kilo — but the street value could be at least five times that, police said.

"It's definitely the largest seizure I've seen," said Brandon police Insp. Mike Pelechaty. "I think it's safe to say it's our largest single seizure in history. It is a very large seizure."

Although police are still testing the substances, they believe there are 50 kilograms of MDMA — commonly known as ecstasy — and 26 kilograms of various substances laced with fentanyl, all packaged in one-kilogram quantities.

Pelechaty said it's hard to estimate how much the drugs would have netted on the street.

"It all depends on how illicit substances are sold," he said. "They can be sold right down to a point, or a gram.

"So typically, just like anything you buy in bulk, you get it quite a bit cheaper and when you break it down until everything in smaller sizes you can charge more for it," Pelechaty added. 

He said he can't say for certain where the drugs were headed, but said some may have been destined for Brandon.

Possible fallout

Kim Longstreet, who has advocated for improved services for those wishing to stop using drugs in Brandon, said getting the substances off the street is only the first step. 

"It's a great thing and it's helpful," she said, but there could be fallout.

"Was it good luck that this happened the way it happened, and it didn't land in our community and now it's not here? Sure it is, but now we have these people who have been basically waiting for the drugs to come here, whether it be the dealers themselves, whether it be the people who need it," Longstreet said. 

She worries people who are using will now look for other drugs or substances to try, which could lead to overdoses or deaths. She continues to press for more resources locally. 

2 men charged

The two men, aged 41 and 43, appeared in court for a bail hearing on Wednesday and were later remanded into custody until their next court appearance.

Police charged both men with two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking MDMA and fentanyl, and two counts of trafficking MDMA and fentanyl contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Pelechaty said the investigation into the seizure is still ongoing.

"There's a lot of legwork to do after the fact ... and of course, we're always concerned about [the] origin and where it's headed, and liaising with other police services to figure things out on a far broader scale." 

Last December, RCMP called a meth bust the largest meth bust in the province's history at that time, after 22 kilograms of meth and 43 kilograms of cocaine were seized. Combined, the drugs had an estimated value of $6.5 million.

Eleven people, including a member of the Hells Angels, were arrested on more than 60 charges in the December bust.