A B.C. Supreme Court judge has acquitted a Surrey truck driver of attempting to smuggle cocaine across the border into Abbotsford in July 2009.
Amritpal Singh Narwal, 30, was found not guilty in New Westminster of one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of unlawfully importing cocaine.
Narwal, who worked for a Surrey trucking company, was stopped at the Abbotsford-Huntingdon border crossing on his way into Canada on July 19, 2009 in a 2003 Kenworth tractor pulling an apparently empty commercial trailer.
He presented documentation – later shown to be fake – indicating that he had delivered a load of peppers from a farm in Delta to a grocery store in Auburn, Wash.
In fact, evidence indicated that Narwal had actually travelled from Surrey to Los Angeles, California.
During an inspection of the trailer, a border guard noticed noticed that two washers holding screws to a metal plate at the back of a refrigeration unit appeared scratched, “as if the plate had been removed and replaced repeatedly,” court documents states.
The officer removed one of the screws, peered behind and pulled out two kilograms of cocaine.
A supervisor was then called to the scene, and the plate was completely removed, showing that part of the fridge had been hollowed out. A total of 144 kilos of cocaine was discovered.
The street value of the drugs was estimated to be $5 million.
Narwal’s defence was that he had no knowledge of the cocaine.
He said he had been instructed by a dispatcher for the trucking company to take a tractor unit from the Surrey yard, drive to a specific truck stop in Washington State, and pick up an empty trailer there.
He said he was told to drive to Los Angeles with the empty trailer to pick up a rush load of produce for return to B.C.
Narwal said the order was then cancelled when he arrived in California, and he returned with the empty trailer. He made a few stops on the way there and back.
He said he provided fake documentation at the border to make it appear that he had only been in the U.S. for a day in order not to be caught having driven more than the authorized number of hours on the trip without taking downtime.
Justice John Truscott concluded that whoever loaded the cocaine on the trailer did so without Narwal’s knowledge “so that the accused would not appear nervous at the border or disappear with the cocaine.”