Abbotsford man cleared of eight drug and weapons charges

Sukhjit Malhi still before the courts on breach and three more drug charges

Abbotsford Police seized items including cocaine, fentanyl and cash during a bust in February. Sukhjit Malhi was charged in connection with the seizure and is still before the courts on that matter. (Abbotsford Police Department)

Abbotsford Police seized items including cocaine, fentanyl and cash during a bust in February. Sukhjit Malhi was charged in connection with the seizure and is still before the courts on that matter. (Abbotsford Police Department)

An Abbotsford man who was among three 19-year-olds arrested a year ago for drug and weapon offences has been acquitted of all eight charges he faced.

The decision against Sukhjit Malhi was issued Sept. 27 in Abbotsford provincial court, where he was found not guilty of six counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and two weapons charges at the conclusion of his trial.

Malhi’s co-accused, Navpreet Dhaliwal, had the same eight charges dropped against him on July 24.

The pair were arrested and charged in September 2017. At the time, the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said the two were tied to the ongoing Lower Mainland gang conflict.

A third man, Ishaan Mutneja, was also arrested around the same time, separately from Malhi and Dhaliwal.

Police said their investigation turned up cocaine, fentanyl, cellphones, $2,500 cash and two vehicles, which would be considered for civil forfeiture (where the proceeds of crime are turned over to the government).

Court records indicate a judge previously ruled that police did not have “reasonable grounds” to arrest Malhi and Dhaliwal and those arrests were, therefore, unlawful.

She then had to consider whether the evidence obtained during the arrests could be used in court.

READ MORE: Three teens charged with dealing fentanyl in Abbotsford

READ MORE: Teen charged for second time with possessing fentanyl for trafficking

READ MORE: Eight drug and weapons charges dropped against Abbotsford man

The pair were stopped on Sept. 6, 2017 in a car while Dhaliwal was driving and Malhi was a passenger, and the vehicle was then searched, the documents state.

They state that items found inside the vehicle were a loaded handgun, a cellphone in the console, and a notebook with names and phone numbers.

Dhaliwal was wearing a fanny pack, which was found to contain drugs, $945 cash, scales and drug packaging, according to the court documents.

The basis for the search was that police doing surveillance had earlier taken photos of Dhaliwal involved in a “hand-to-hand transaction” on the balcony of a local residence.

Another officer was shown those photos and asked to enlarge them to determine whether an arrest of Dhaliwal was warranted. That officer was then involved in the subsequent traffic stop, vehicle search and arrests of Malhi and Dhaliwal.

But the judge stated that examining the surveillance photos in such a way was “not reasonable.” She also noted that Dhaliwal had not consented to a search of the vehicle of his fanny pack.

The judge said these issues resulted in a breach of his charter rights –although not one “worthy of condemnation” – and any evidence found against him as a result of the search could not be used at trial. This later resulted in all charges being dropped against Dhaliwal.

However, the judge said that Malhi did not have the same standing to challenge the search of the vehicle and of Dhaliwal’s fanny pack, and his case proceeded to trial.

Malhi is still before the courts for allegedly breaching his court-ordered conditions after his arrest and being found in possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking in February of this year. He has been charged with breach and three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking in that case.

Mutneja is also still before the courts on two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking that stem from his September 2017 arrest.

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