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High-profile drug case clears final legal hurdle

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | 1:45 pm

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A man walks past the city-owned Kelowna Marina, which police allege was the base of operations for a cocaine-trafficking ring. Five people were arrested. (Photo Joe Fries)

By Joe Fries

A high-profile drug-trafficking case with ties to a city-owned marina has cleared a final legal hurdle and is now set to go to trial next week in B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna.

Five people were arrested in April 2007 following a four-month investigation into a cocaine-trafficking ring that police allege used the Kelowna Marina as its hub of operations for multi-kilogram cocaine transactions during peak tourist season, according to previously published reports.

Lawyers for three of the people charged – Thomas Fraser, Jason Herrick and Margo Safadi – were successful in pre-trial arguments last month that led Justice Geoff Barrow to conclude that police had violated their clients’ Charter rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

As a so-called warrantless search, the defence lawyers wanted the evidence, namely recordings of 274 intercepted phone calls, to be thrown out, which would have collapsed the Crown’s case.

But Barrow ruled this morning that despite the Charter breach, he would allow the Crown to call the the evidence at trial.

“I recognize and acknowledge that the impact of the breach on the Charter-protected interests of the accused is significant,” Barrow said, although “not, in my view, properly characterized as particularly serious.”

“The offences are serious, and the evidence is essential to the Crown’s case,” he continued, noting that the reputation of the justice system was a factor in his decision.

At issue was information about informants contained in affidavits sworn by police and used to obtain judicial authorization to monitor and record the accused’s phone conversations, install a tracking device on one of their vehicles, and hide a video camera at a suspected drug storehouse.

Barrow found, however, that police “proceeded in a reasonably deliberate way to secure the authorizations.”

Reached by telephone afterwards, Herrick’s lawyer, James Pennnigton, told there is no plan to appeal the ruling: “Basically, what the judge said is we’re going to trial on Monday, and that’s where we’re headed.”

Two special Crown prosecutors from Vancouver have been assigned to the case. The trial, before a judge alone, is scheduled to start Monday and has two weeks of court time assigned, although will likely need to be continued at a later date.

The other two accused, Mark Zagar and Brent Nagy, applied to have their trials severed from the main proceedings, and will head to court separately in September.

Police alleged in 2007 that all four men lived in Kelowna, and obtained their cocaine from Safadi, a Vancouver resident.

The investigation yielded what cops suspect was six kilograms of cocaine, 450 ecstasy tablets, $72,000 cash and two vehicles. Mounties characterized the accused as an independent criminal organization, though one that likely had the blessing of more well-established crime groups in the area.

The marina had been leased from the City of Kelowna by a man who wasn’t charged in the bust.

High-profile drug case clears final legal hurdle4.051

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6 Responses to “High-profile drug case clears final legal hurdle”

  1. Mark says:
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    The Police violated the drug dealer’s rights?


    How about the drug dealers violated the public’ rights for years while becoming millionaires.

    Give them 20 years.


  2. logicalview says:
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    “The marina had been leased from the City of Kelowna by a man who wasn’t charged in the bust.”

    OK Lets try it this way as published in the national media (among others) from / the Province Newspaper.

    The City of Kelowna leases the foreshore licence for the Kelowna Marina property to Stewart Smith, who owns the dock and pumps. Smith, whose licence with the city runs out this fall, also operates Turtle Bay Marina in Lake Country.

  3. Alli says:
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    confusion what happened and wgho got charged for what exaxtly?

  4. Alli says:
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    Seems like a big case that should be loked into much more. anyone agree?

  5. Alli says:
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    Any ony see any connections?? just thining?? Just probably a totaley crazy question.

  6. E says:
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    Unless you know all the facts, you shouldn’t comment about who these people are or what time they should get. Although I am not involved in this case, I know the accused and what really happened and what didn’t happen. Yes they made a mistake and obviously broke they law, however this does not make them bad people. I’m sure everyone has broken the law at some point weather it be drugs, or something like speeding…..we’ve all done it.

    But please don’t be stupid and run your mouth off when you don’t know the facts or the people involved!

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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