Police officers arrest one of two men found near bags of cocaine in a farm field near Mt. Lehman Road and Zero Avenue in September 2009. The pair now awaits sentencing.

Police officers arrest one of two men found near bags of cocaine in a farm field near Mt. Lehman Road and Zero Avenue in September 2009. The pair now awaits sentencing.

Crown wants eight years for cocaine couriers

The Crown is asking for eight years prison time for two Abbotsford men who were found in a berry field near four cocaine-filled bags in 2009

The Crown is asking for eight years prison time for two Abbotsford men who were found in a berry field near four cocaine-filled bags in 2009.

A sentencing hearing for Randeep Match, 30, and Manindervir ‘Manny’ Virk, 24, was held in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Monday, for possession for the purpose of trafficking.

They were found guilty in November of last year. In September 2009 they were spotted in a farm field near Mt. Lehman Road and Zero Avenue by the Air One police helicopter using night vision. Officers and a police dog recovered two duffel bags and two backpacks loaded with 40 bricks of cocaine, valued at between $1.4 million and $2 million. Match and Virk were found hiding in bushes nearby, while a third person got away.

Crown counsel Sharon Steele also asked for a lifetime weapons ban for Virk, who has three assault convictions, and a 10-year weapons ban for Match, who had no prior convictions.

Typically, drug couriers who cross the border with multiple kilograms of cocaine – often drivers of tractor-trailers – receive sentences of eight to 12 years. She suggested the bottom of this range would be appropriate, since they were not convicted of importation.

Steel said theirs is a crime motivated by greed, which is planned and deliberate – not “spur of the moment.” She said the drug trade would not exist without carriers, and the law recognizes this in their sentences.

Virk’s lawyer J.R. Rey countered that four to six years would be an appropriate sentence range, because the men were not convicted of importing, but trafficking. He noted that the co-accused were originally charged with importation, but Crown chose to proceed with possession for the purpose of trafficking. Virk would be given one year of credit for six months spent in remand – his time in custody was spent prior to passing the Truth in Sentencing Act, and counts as double time served.

Rey characterized eight years as “a crushing sentence.” He said Virk is “remorseful of his involvement, and ready to embark upon his sentence.”

Match’s layer, Ian Donaldson, noted his client is a father of two and a husband. He is worried about how his family will fare without him. He has had a lifetime of employment and no prior criminal involvement. He said Match has no apparent links to the drug/gang world.

Donaldson opened the hearing by arguing his client’s case should be re-opened, because Match did not testify in his defence, and did not understand that he would not be able to testify at an appeal under rules of

evidence. What’s more, Match believed Virk would testify, and that his co-accused’s testimony would clear him. Virk also did not take the stand.

Match maintains his innocence, saying he did not know about the cocaine, but when the group was pursued by police he panicked and ran.

Donaldson said he was a latecomer to the case, only representing Match at the pre-sentencing stage. When he heard Match’s story he was “deeply concerned.”

He said Match is an unsophisticated man, who followed the advice of his prior lawyer. Donaldson acknowledged that asking for the case to be re-opened at the sentencing stage was highly unusual, and not something he had done before. But he noted it is possible in law, in exceptional circumstances.

Justice Brian Joyce said he has never heard of a case being re-opened at this stage – the accused would “have a second kick at the can.”

Steele called the decision not to testify a “tactical decision” and a “strategic choice,” recommended by Match’s trial lawyer.

Joyce dismissed the application, and said written reasons will follow.

He will sentence the pair on Sept. 5 in Chilliwack.

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