Sailboat arrives in N.S. with cocaine stash

Sailboat arrives in N.S. with cocaine stash

HALIFAX — Two men are facing drug charges after more than 250 kilograms of suspected cocaine was found hidden on a sailboat, which arrived in Nova Scotia from the Caribbean as darkness fell Sunday night.

The Canada Border Services Agency says its officers boarded the vessel in Hubbards, N.S., at East River Marine.

“We were aware of it coming,” said Dominic Mallette, the agency’s acting director for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Canadian-registered, 29-foot boat — called Quesera — arrived from the small Caribbean island of Saint Martin, he said.

Inside the vessel’s forward sleeping quarters, officers found several bricks of suspected cocaine hidden inside a sealed bed frame, and the RCMP were called in.

“Our officers are trained to look in those areas,” Mallette said in an interview. “If the vessel is 20 years old, and the screws are brand new, that means somebody’s been there recently.”

The owner of the boat, 68-year-old Jacques John Grenier of Hubbards, N.S., was arrested at the scene at 11:30 p.m.

Four hours later, 59-year-old Luc Chevrefils of Montreal was arrested at a hotel in the Halifax area.

Both face charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy to import cocaine. Grenier faces an additional charge of importing cocaine.

The case returns to provincial court on Monday to possibly set dates for bail hearings.

“We are opposed to the release of both individuals,” federal Crown attorney Glen Scheuer said outside Halifax provincial court. “Approximately 274 kilograms of cocaine … is a considerable seizure, obviously relating to the fact that these are very serious offences.”

Asked if the border agency had received a tip about the accused smugglers, Mallette declined to be specific.

“I can tell you that we had an awareness and we were ready,” he said. “Anything beyond that would jeopardize our internal work.”

In the past four years, the CBSA in Atlantic Canada has recorded between 130 and 159 drug seizures every year, many of them at ports handling large shipping containers.

Finding such a large stash in a small boat is unusual, Mallette said.

“In terms of small vessels … something of this magnitude is extremely rare,” he said. “It’s very difficult to be aware and monitor the sea.”

The RCMP confirmed it was the second significant suspected drug seizure in Nova Scotia this year. In May, about 200 kilograms of hashish was found hidden inside chocolate bars stacked in a shipping container at the Port of Halifax.

Border officers used an X-ray machine to spot the drugs, stuffed inside 100 chocolate bars. The shipment originated in the Netherlands and was headed for Ontario.

A month later, a 51-year-old man from Mississauga, Ont., was charged with importation of a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and two counts of conspiring to commit an indictable offence.

Last week, the Ontario Provincial Police announced that a tip from the public led to the seizure in July of 1,062 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside hollowed-out quartzite stones packed in shipping containers that travelled from Argentina to warehouses in southern Ontario. The drug bust marked the largest seizure in the history of the police force.

The drugs were concealed so well that police dogs couldn’t detect them.

Those believed to be behind the operation — two Canadian citizens and one Costa Rican citizen — are facing drug importation and drug trafficking charges. The men allegedly set up a front company to sell the stones, the OPP said.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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