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Us: Drug Bust At Border

Goldie

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DRUG BUST AT BORDER

by Jeff Hodson, (Source:Metro)
Regional News

05 May 2005

Washington
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U.S. Customs Arrests Canadian Inspector With $850,000 Of Pot

A Canadian border inspector has been arrested for allegedly transporting $850,000 worth of marijuana into the United States.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Altaf Merali at the Pacific border crossing separating South Surrey from Blaine, Wash., on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old Surrey resident is an inspector with the Canada Border Services Agency ( CBSA ).

Paula Shore, a spokeswoman with CBSA, said privacy and confidentiality provisions prevented her from commenting on specific details of the incident, but confirmed that Merali is an employee of the border services agency.

She said the agency would be cooperating fully with federal and international agencies.

According to U.S. District Court documents, the incident began when Merali's 1992 GMC Safari was randomly flagged for inspection at the border.

Allegedly, Merali parked, identified himself as a Canadian customs officer and asked how long the inspection would take. He began to fill out a baggage declaration, but stopped, took a U.S. border officer aside and confessed he was transporting marijuana, the court documents said.

A statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said approximately 103 kilograms of marijuana was found in the back of the vehicle.

According to the court documents, Merali told Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents he wanted to co-operate and waived his rights. He told them it was his first time transporting marijuana over the border and was doing so because "an Indo-Canadian gang had threatened" his family.

The court papers outlined the plan: Merali was to drive his van to the McDonald's Restaurant at the Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, Wash. There, a man in a red baseball cap would take the marijuana from him.

Merali made an initial appearance in court yesterday.

He is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. If convicted, the crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Merali was remanded to a federal detention centre to await a detention hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon. The hearing will determine if there are any conditions that would allow his release prior to trial.

A preliminary hearing is also scheduled for May 18.
 

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