Manitoba

Police dismantle organized crime network in Manitoba, Ontario

Police laid out heaps of cash, drugs and illegal cigarettes seized during co-ordinated raids last week on properties linked to organized crime in Manitoba and southern Ontario.

Cocaine, cannabis distributed from southern Ontario into Manitoba

Police display items seized during a Dec. 18 raid of several properties in Winnipeg, the Rural Municipality of Tache, and Ontario. (Amélie David/CBC)

Police laid out heaps of cash, drugs and illegal cigarettes seized during co-ordinated raids last week on properties linked to organized crime in Manitoba and southern Ontario.

The raids, part of a nine-month investigation called Project Highland, were first reported Dec. 18 but few details were provided at that time because the investigation was still ongoing.

On Monday, police revealed an array of seized items that included 13 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kg of illegal cannabis, 21 bags of illegal cannabis edibles, 246 cases of illegal cigarettes, as well as ecstasy, magic mushrooms, benzocaine and Xanax.

The estimated value of the items is more than $2 million.

Two homes have also been seized, one in Winnipeg and the other in a rural location, said Insp. Max Waddell, head of the Winnipeg Police Service's guns and gangs unit.

Police display items seized during a Dec. 18 raid of several properties in Winnipeg, the Rural Municipality of Tache, and Ontario. (Amélie David/CBC)

Ten people — eight men and two women — have been charged with 34 criminal code offences related to conspiracy and trafficking of a controlled substance, possessing the proceeds of crime, unlawful possession of cannabis, and possession of unmarked tobacco.

"The primary criminal activities of this organized crime group involved the transportation of multiple kilograms of cocaine, opioids, and significant amounts of illegal cannabis and tobacco from southern Ontario into the city of Winnipeg," Waddell said.

Five of those charged are from Winnipeg, others are from Whitby, Ont., Stouffville, Ont., Aurora, Ont., and Calgary, Alta. As well, one is from the RM of Tache, southeast of Winnipeg.

Police, who called the illegal operation a "sophisticated inter-provincial organized crime network," said southern Ontario was the distribution point for cannabis grown there, as well as for cocaine brought in from Mexico.

One of the trucks had "a James Bond-like console" with an electronically-controlled actuator. The press of a button would cause the hidden compartment to be revealed. (Amélie David/CBC)

"I've been told this is some of the purest cocaine we've seen in over 15 years," said Waddell, adding the raids required approximately 160 police members from various agencies … to dismantle this organization."

The raids also resulted in the seizure of more than 400 rounds of ammunition, luxury cars (2017 Jaguar FPACE R-Sport 35 and 2015 Lexus NX 200T), an SUV, two pickup trucks and a trailer, and $120,000 cash.

One of the pickups had a hidden compartment in it that allowed drugs to be stashed away.

All 13 kilograms of cocaine were found in that compartment, which Waddell described as "a James Bond-like console" with an electronically-controlled actuator. The press of a button would cause the hidden compartment to be revealed.

"Clearly, someone with a mind to be creative was able to weld that," Waddell said.

The 13 kilograms of cocaine were found inside the hidden compartment of a truck. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

The investigation involved the WPS in collaboration with the Ontario Provincial Police. Manitoba's finance and taxation department was also involved due to the tobacco, which amounted to 2.46 million individual cigarettes.

The province stood to lose $739,326 in tax revenue if they had been sold illegally, Waddell said, noting it is the largest single seizure of illegal tobacco in Manitoba history.

Police also seized an extraction press used to produce shatter, a high-grade concentration of cannabis that creates a stronger high, Waddell said.

Ten people were arrested in simultaneous raids last week in Winnipeg, the R-M of Tache and in southern Ontario. 2:38