Suspect in international drug ring lived in Chilliwack: CFSEU

A Chilliwack residence was searched by B.C. drug enforcement officials because one of the suspects in a drug smuggling ring had lived there.

  • Aug. 31, 2012 12:00 p.m.

A Chilliwack residence was home to one of six suspects arrested in connection with a “sophisticated” international drug smuggling operation.

Chilliwack was “probably” chosen because of its proximity to the border, although “that’s a little bit of speculation,” Sgt. Ghalib Bhayani, spokesman for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., said Friday.

But he could not immediately identify which suspect lived in Chilliwack, because it was not his permanent address.

The charges follow a CFSEU investigation that spanned B.C., California, Mexico and Peru.

The investigation started in 2008 when it was learned that Canadian and American citizens were using a “sophisticated system of encrypted smartphones to communicate and organize drug transactions on an international scale.”

CFSEU investigators allege a number of the accused traveled extensively throughout North and South America conspiring to import cocaine to Canada, and then export Ecstasy to the U.S.

A “significant amount” of drugs were taken off the street during the investigation, starting with the seizure of 117,000 Ecstasy pills in Princeton in August, 2008.

In December, 2008, 121 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the Pacific Border Crossing, and a few days later a further 97 kilograms of cocaine were found at the border hidden in a truck among a shipment of bananas.

In May, 2009, 10 kilograms of cocaine were seized in Burnaby.

“The cocaine alone represents a street value (per gram) of over $17 million, Bhayani said.

The investigation continued for six more months, and concluded with seven search warrants being executed in June, 2009 at residences in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and the Lake Country between Kelowna and Vernon.

These searches resulted in the seizure of four firearms, including a restricted .44 Magnum pistol and a number of prohibited firearms including a .357 Magnum revolver, a .38-calibre semi-automatic pistol and a .40-calibre semi-automatic pistol.

One of the six suspects, Khamla Wong, 40, of Abbotsford, is still at large.

He is charged along with Jeremy Albert Stark, 38, of Langley, with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of a firearm.

Christopher Lloyd Mehan, 40, of Burnaby, is charged with conspiracy to import cocaine.

Matthew James Higgins, 28, of Powell River is charged with conspiracy to traffic in Ecstasy.

Hernan Osvaldo Veloso, 50, of Vancouver, is charged with conspiracy to traffic in Ecstasy and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Robert Charles Arthur, 32, of Surrey is charged wth possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine. He is currently out on bail.

Stark, Mehan, Higgins and Veloso return to court Sept. 12 in Surrey.