Drug Smuggling Accused Border Guard Baljinder Kandola At Loss For Words At Trial

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VANCOUVER – While one former Indo-Canadian border guard got five years for his part in a drug smuggling ring – another is currently on trial for his part in a different operation that brought millions of illicit drugs into Canada.

Baljinder Kandola, a former Canadian border guard who was charged with being part of a cocaine-smuggling ring, was at a loss for words during much of his testimony on Tuesday to explain why he risked so much to help a millionaire auto-parts importer for nothing in return.

Under cross-examination by Crown counsel James Torrance, Kandola said he agreed to wave his co-accused Shminder Singh Johal and associates in his three automotive companies through the border, helping them avoid inspection, reported the Province newspaper.

Kandola — who worked at the Pacific Highway crossing from July 2001 until his arrest on Oct. 25, 2007 — admitted he made unauthorized use of Canadian Border Services Agency databases to come to the conclusion Johal had been subjected to inspections over the years unfairly.

“He asked if I was able to wave him through,” Kandola told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly, who is hearing the case without a jury.

“It would save him time and money, and he wouldn’t be harassed.”

Torrance reminded Kandola of his testimony a day earlier, when he said he was risking his job, his pension and his standing in the Sikh community by breaking his oath to protect Canada’s borders.

“What was [Johal] offering you in return?” asked the prosecutor.

“He didn’t offer me anything,” replied Kandola. “In my mind he was bringing auto parts into Canada.”

Torrance asked, “This [waving Johal through] was definitely something you shouldn’t do?”

“Yes,” agreed the witness.

“Then why would you want to help a successful millionaire businessman?”

Kandola replied: “I don’t know, I’ve asked myself the same question.”

Torrance turned to Kandola’s illegal use of the databases to come to the conclusion Johal was unfairly harassed.

A “lookout” had been placed on Johal’s border crossings after a tip from the RCMP.

“Did you not consider [Johal] was previously suspected of smuggling cocaine?” asked Torrance.

“No,” said Kandola.

“That was all cleared up by your queries [into the databases]?”

“I guess so,” replied the defendant.

Torrance then meticulously went through Kandola’s phone, text and CBSA database records to show that he called Johal to let him know when he was in position to wave him through the border and when the “lookout” was on or off during the wee hours of Feb. 10, 2007.

Asked if he was paid by Johal when they met at a 7-Eleven store the next day, Kandola denied it.

Kandola was arrested on Oct. 25, 2007, shortly after he waved through a car driven by Herman Riar that contained 208 kilograms of cocaine. Riar pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison.

Kandola and Johal have pleaded not guilty to charges of drug smuggling, illegal firearms, conspiracy and bribing an official.

The trial in New Westminster is scheduled to last three more weeks.

Courtesy The Province