Trucker imprisoned 11 years for smuggling cocaine worth $3.5M into Sarnia

A Toronto-area truck driver has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for smuggling $3.5 million of cocaine into Canada via the Blue Water Bridge near Sarnia.

Harvinder Singh, then a 25-year-old trucker from Brampton, was arrested on March 31, 2021, at the crossing connecting Port Huron, Mich., and Point Edward after Canada Border Services Agency officers found two suitcases containing approximately 62 kilograms of cocaine while inspecting his tractor-trailer.

Singh was charged by the RCMP with importing cocaine and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, charges to which he pleaded not guilty as a four-day trial started in mid-May.

Following a three-month adjournment, Superior Court Justice Kirk Munroe found Singh guilty of both charges in August, but sentencing was adjourned to late last week. As the two-and-a-half year case finally concluded, Munroe sentenced him to 11 years in prison for importing and another nine years for trafficking, but both sentences will run at the same time.

“This was wrong. You have to pay for it. It was very serious,” Munroe said to Singh as he stood in the Sarnia courtroom’s prisoner’s box.

The judge added the crime was planned, not impulsive, and as a courier drug trafficker he intended to make money off the ills and misfortunates of other people as opposed to an addict trafficker just trying to get by.

“Mr. Singh certainly knew what he was doing and knew it was unlawful,” he said.

The Canada Border Services Agency provided this photo of stacked vacuum-sealed packages of cocaine seized at the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward on March 31, 2021. (CBSA)
The Canada Border Services Agency provided this photo of stacked vacuum-sealed packages of cocaine seized at the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward on March 31, 2021. (CBSA)

Singh, who listened to Munroe’s reasons via a Punjabi interpreter, was given a chance to address the court before the judge imposed the final sentence.

“My lawyer is going to talk on my behalf,” he said.

Defence lawyer Gurpreet Dhaliwal said his client, a permanent Canadian resident originally from India, will likely be deported after he’s finished serving his sentence and, in an unusual request, asked the judge to recommend early deportation. Federal prosecutor Rick Visca opposed the idea and Munroe eventually declined to do it, saying it would take away from the effect of the sentence discouraging other people from attempting to do the same crime.

Singh did get six months and 10 days taken off his sentence for time spent in pre-sentence custody and on strict bail conditions, where he stayed by himself in a basement apartment for long stretches with no visitors. He was arrested on an unrelated incident about six weeks ago and has been back in custody since then.

Munroe previously cited several key reasons why he found Singh guilty following a trial that mostly centred on circumstantial evidence. One of them was the incorrect seal Singh secured on his trailer after it was loaded with bags of carbon black, a powdery substance commonly used as a pigment and reinforcing agent in vehicle tires, at an XPO Logistics warehouse in the Midwestern U.S.

The numbers were close but didn’t quite match the manifest, while the one that did was in the cab near the driver’s seat.

Singh had testified this was simply a mistake. But Visca previously pointed out of the eight seals he had in a bag with him, he picked the two that were the most similar.

This was no accident, he had argued, and the judge said this could’ve potentially allowed Singh to offload the cocaine in Canada after clearing the border before affixing the proper seal and heading to his destination in Toronto.

Singh’s testimony on this issue, but also in general while on the stand, raised several red flags for Munroe. He recalled Singh initially testified the seal swap was a mistake, then later he said it was easier to grab a couple of seals at a time while making multiple trips.

But during cross-examination Singh testified he never picked up multiple loads while working for Brampton-based Greenway Carriers. Later, he changed his answer again, saying two seals came out when he put his hand in the bag.

There was also the issue of Singh’s dirty socks and footprints inside his trailer, which were the focus as a handful of border officers testified during the early stages of the trial. They became dirty as Singh conducted a pre-trip inspection of his load without wearing shoes, yet Singh testified he never saw the cocaine-filled suitcases officers found near the nose of the trailer and had no idea they were in there.

There was no direct evidence linking Singh to the suitcases, but Munroe found the only reasonable inference was he had knowledge of the drugs as they crossed into Canada.

Singh was the first of 12 truckers arrested at the Blue Water Bridge since 2021 and accused of smuggling millions of dollars in illegal drugs into Canada. Most of the other cases are still before the courts.