VANCOUVER – An Associate of well known Punjabi singer K. S. Makhan, who became a turbaned Sikh more than a year ago, was convicted of smuggling heroin through Vancouver airport.
Hardev Sahota, whom the Province newspaper reported is an associate of Makhan, was convicted of attempting to smuggle two kilograms of heroin hidden in the false bottom of a suitcase through Vancouver International Airport.
Sahota, 36, was selected for secondary screening by a border security officer after he arrived at the airport on a flight from India on April 22, 2010.
An X-ray examination of his large black suitcase revealed an irregularity, the suspected presence of organic material in the base of the suitcase.
The suitcase was found to have a false bottom in which border officers found two plastic bags containing white powder. The powder was two kilograms worth of heroin, valued at between $180,000 and $200,000 depending on purity and, if sold by the gram, worth as much as $645,000, reported the Province.
Sahota, a Surrey father of three, was charged with importing a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
At his trial earlier this year in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, there was no dispute that the drugs were in his possession. The only issue was whether he had knowledge of the narcotics.
Court heard that Sahota — who came to Canada in 2001 after being sponsored by his wife, met Makhan who has a home in Delta and lives there when he is in Canada, in 2006, reported the Province newspaper.
Sahota was told Makhan, whose real name he learned is Kuldeep Singh Takhar, was a promoter and residential land developer, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker said in her reasons for judgment released last Friday.
Sahota, who was an unlicensed electrician, was hired by Makhan to do some work on houses Makhan was building and began spending more time with him, the judge noted, reported the Province.
“At some point, probably in 2008 I conclude, but possibly as late as 2009, Mr. Sahota became aware that Mr. Makhan was engaged in the importation of narcotics from India and the distribution of narcotics in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia,” said the judge.
Sahota testified that one time, Makhan passed him a box containing white powder and had him deliver the box to a Punjabi store and bakery. On other occasions, Makhan gave him a packet to keep at his home, noted the judge.
“Sometimes the packet contained large amounts of cash, as much as $40,000 or $50,000,” said the judge. “Mr. Makhan usually retrieved the packet from Mr. Sahota within a day or two.”
Sahota believed Makhan was bringing at least eight to 10 kilograms of heroin or cocaine into Canada per month and that his associates received a commission of $5,000 “per brick,” said the judge.
The accused was also aware that Makhan’s younger brother who lived in India was involved in the sophisticated scheme, the judge said.
Makhan has not been charged with any offences, according to a B.C. justice website. An online report in March 2014 in the Hindustan Times, an Indian English-language newspaper, said Makhan had been acquitted by a Punjabi court in an eight-year-old heroin smuggling case.
In a case very much similar to Sahota’s, another alleged Makhan associate Chamkaur Singh Pandher was acquitted of smuggling four kilograms of heroin in a suitcase into Canada.
Pandher was found not guilty by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies after he claimed he was set up by Manji Makhan, a brother of K.S. Makhan.
In her ruling, Baker said she had carefully considered the Pandher ruling but that in her assessment, while there were similarities, the relevant factors in Sahota’s case were quite different, reported the Province newspaper.
Sahota’s sentencing will be done at a later date.