Canadian Police Make Record-Breaking Cocaine Bust

By Kelly Burch 08/31/17

Ontario police estimate that the cocaine haul is worth around $250 million.

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Cocaine seized from the drug bust in Ontario
Cocaine seized from the drug bust in Ontario Photo via YouTube

Ontario Provincial Police showed off their largest drug bust ever this week, standing in front of a stack of cocaine they say would be worth about a quarter of a billion dollars on the street. 

“This is a massive seizure, bigger than I’ve ever seen in my 33 years of policing,” Vince Hawkes, Commissioner of the OPP said during a press conference Monday morning, according to The National Post.

Police seized 1,062 kilograms of cocaine that was 97% pure. As is, the drugs are worth about $60 million, but if they were cut to 30-40% purity, the police estimate that they would be worth $250 million. Once cut, the cocaine would have made up to 3,183 kilograms to be sold on the street, Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum said. 

“This such a large amount that—cut several thousands and thousands of times—results in a lot of product that could be on the street,” Hawkes said.

The drugs were found through a series of investigations drubbed Project HOPE, that is still ongoing. The cocaine came from Argentina and was shipped into Canada via the port of Montreal. The drugs were concealed in hollowed-out garden stones, which were then packed on pallets amid regular rocks. 

By concealing the drugs in stones, which were then resealed with concrete, the drug smugglers were able to avoid drug-detection dogs. “(The dogs) do amazing work, they really do,” Barnum said. “In this case, inside (the stones)… there was other masking substances on there to throw a scent. Once you seal it up and pile a bunch of other rocks around, you’re not going to get that.”

Police did not comment on how much cocaine may have come into Canada by this method. They suspect that the smugglers have connections to a Mexican drug cartel. “We’ve seen that before, where there’s a connection to Mexico and South America,” Hawkes said. “That’s normal for our investigators who do this on a regular basis.”

Police have arrested three people in connection with the drug smuggling ring. Luis Enrique Karim-Altamirano, 52, Mauricio Antonio Medina-Gatica, 36, and Iban Orozco-Lomeli, 45, were charged with importation of cocaine and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. Police said the three were heavily involved in the smuggling scheme. 

“These are well-placed individuals who had access to all of this cocaine,” Barnum said. “These aren’t individuals that are sort of playing in this game. They are high-level players in importation and selling tons of cocaine.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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