Tractor-trailers with hidden compartments were used to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs from Mexico through the United States and into Canada, Toronto police said Tuesday as they announced a major takedown of an international operation.
Twenty people, most from the Greater Toronto Area, face a total of 182 charges, the force said, as it detailed the large quantities of cocaine, crystal meth, and other substances seized.
"The quantities of illegal street drugs seized in the operation are frankly staggering," Toronto Police Chief James Ramer told reporters.
"The size and scope of this investigation, in terms of drugs seized and potential harm caused, has never been seen before in the history of our service"
Police said that between last November and May this year, investigators identified those allegedly responsible for bringing the drugs across borders for sale in Canada.
Key to the investigation, police said, were secret compartments in tractor-trailers that were capable of smuggling 100 kilograms of a substance in a single trip.
Police said they identified a person known as the "trap maker" who was allegedly responsible for building the hidden compartments in the tractor-trailers. The 43-year-old from British Columbia turned himself in to police in Toronto last week, they said.
The charges laid against those arrested in the case include multiple counts of participation in a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and trafficking charges
Two men are still wanted in the investigation dubbed Project Brisa, which involved Canadian and American law enforcement agencies.
In addition to over a thousand kilos of illicit drugs, 21 vehicles, almost a million dollars, and a firearm were seized, police said.
Ontario Provincial Police Chief Supt. Paul Mackey said the drugs seized were "destined for our streets," not just in communities in the Greater Toronto Area but smaller towns across the province.
"Despite there being restrictions in our borders and despite there being an ongoing global pandemic, these criminal continue to compromise the safety of our communities," Mackey said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press