Nova Scotia

N.S. man awaiting murder trial was Colombian drug cartel kingpin, say authorities

The Colombian attorney general's office says Steven Douglas Skinner created the Morfhox cartel, which convinced people to ingest liquid cocaine and smuggle it to Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Steven Douglas Skinner named ringleader in Morfhox cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring

This photo of Steven Skinner's arrest on a beach was shared by Venezuelan police on social media. (Twitter)

Colombian authorities say a Nova Scotia man who is awaiting trial for a 2011 murder in Lake Echo, N.S., was allegedly one of the ringleaders of a drug cartel that paid people to smuggle liquid cocaine in their bodies to Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

The Colombian attorney general's office also says Steven Douglas Skinner murdered an accomplice in that country and then escaped to Venezuela.

Skinner was arrested on a beach in Venezuela in 2016 and extradited to Canada, where he is facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of 20-year-old Stacey Adams.

Adams was shot dead in the driveway of a home in Lake Echo in 2011. Skinner, from Cole Harbour, fled the province soon after the killing and was on the lam for five years before he was caught in Venezuela.

Morfhox cartel dismantled

In a news release issued Wednesday, the Colombian attorney general's office said Skinner teamed up with another man named Daniel (El Loco) Barrera to create a drug trafficking and money laundering network called Morfhox.

The cartel convinced seniors, mothers and foreigners — mostly Venezuelans — to ingest latex capsules filled with liquid cocaine and then travel abroad in pairs to deliver the drugs. Morfhox supplied the travellers with passports, airplane tickets and clothes as well as money for expenses. 

The mules were promised that if they delivered the narcotics to their destinations in North America and Europe, they would receive additional payment when they returned to Colombia.

The attorney general's office in Colombia said Wednesday it broke up the Morfhox cartel after four years of investigations. Twenty-seven people are facing charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, trafficking, manufacturing and possession of narcotic drugs, money laundering and homicide.

A large quantity of cash, four firearms, ammunition and emeralds were found during the investigation. Forty-six properties, four businesses and 12 vehicles have also been seized.

The Colombian authority also alleges Skinner assassinated an accomplice in Sabaneta, Antioquia, which is near Medellin.

There's no word yet on whether Skinner could be extradited back to Colombia to face more charges.

Skinner's trial in Nova Scotia for the killing of Adams is scheduled to begin Sept. 3, 2019, and is expected to take 20 days.

Eric Taylor and Cheryl Schurman, the Crown attorneys prosecuting Skinner for the Adams homicide, said Friday there was no agreement when he was extradited to Canada that he could be sent back to South America.

They said they were not aware of the charges against him when he was brought to Canada.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at frances.willick@cbc.ca

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