By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, April 6 (IANS) A court here has acquitted three Indo-Canadians on charges of smuggling heroin worth millions of dollars in cricket bats and balls from India.
Arundeep Sood, Charanbir Dhillon and Gurdeep Boparai and their two accomplices, who were acquitted earlier, were charged with smuggling the contraband hidden in cricket bats and balls imported from India in March 2007. But the Ontario superior court here acquitted them of smuggling charges as the prosecution failed to produce key evidence, the judge said delivering the verdict.
When on a tip-off in March 2007 that heroin was being smuggled on a flight from India in cricket bats and balls, police borrowed 20 bats from a local store to secretly replace them with those carrying the contraband in the consignment.
When the consignment landed in Toronto, custom officials seized 20 cricket bats and 12 balls. When a bat was broken with a crow bar, they found some heroin inside it. In total, they allegedly seized 3.5 kilogrammes of heroin worth more than $5.1 million hidden in bats and balls. Police kept the original bats and put the susbtitute bats in the consignment.
When the smugglers picked up the consignment, police followed them. They kept a watch on them and saw them trying to get the contraband out of the bats (substituted).
They were arrested, and the substitute bats seized from them. Next day, police returned 18 of the 20 bats to the store, keeping two which "were not in their original condition'' to produce as evidence. But when the trial began, the judge found the marks on the substitute bats (kept by police) unreliable.
The other remaining 18 substitute bats could not be produced as evidence because the store had already sold them.
"The evidence of the condition of the substitute bats before and after the controlled delivery is so fraught with issues of reliability that it would be dangerous to make a finding of guilt,'' the court said, acquitting the Indo-Canadians.
Apart from bats and balls, marble slabs have also been used to smuggle drugs from India into Canada.