Mississauga truck driver who used cocaine while smuggling 30 bricks of the drug loses appeal

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Published November 7, 2023 at 12:20 pm

mississauga truck driver cocaine
The 37 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Ambassador Bridge crossing on Dec. 27, 2016. Photo: Canada Border Services Agency

A Mississauga truck driver who was found guilty of hauling 30 bricks of cocaine across the U.S.-Canada border, while under the influence of the drug, lost his appeal recently.

Manpreet Singh Dhatt, a long-haul transport truck driver working for a Brampton company, was found guilty of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in the Superior Court of Justice in 2019. Dhatt’s appeal was dismissed on Oct. 24, according to court documents.

The charges came after Dhatt was stopped at approximately 3:30 a.m on Dec. 27, 2016, as he drove a refrigerator transport trailer truck into Canada, crossing from the United States at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

Dhatt had picked up a load of oranges in Parlier, California on Dec. 21, 2016. He drove to a truck stop where two people loaded bricks of cocaine from a van into the transport as had been pre-arranged. Dhatt, who wanted to buy a luxury car and house for his wife, was told he could make $10,000 for smuggling.

He admitted to opening one of the bricks with a razor blade in his truck cab. When some of the cocaine fell out he “sniffed some of it into his nostrils,” court documents state. He later tapped up the brick, returned to the back of the truck and drove on to the border.

Dhatt told border inspectors he was hauling oranges, as was stated on his commercial paperwork.

But then, he oddly added that he had information about a person “who had been pressing him to smuggle goods into Canada.” He told the border services officer he was prepared to say “yes next time. Then you can arrest everyone involved at once, so they don’t think I was part of it,” court documents show.

This odd behaviour was later explained as Dhatt getting “cold feet” about smuggling the drugs.

At a secondary inspection area border officers asked Dhatt if there were any drugs in the truck. He answered no, and then “No. Nothing. No problems”.

But when the trailer was searched, 30 bricks of cocaine were discovered in a space between the skids of orange boxes. The cocaine had a value ranging between $1.95 million to $4.8 million, depending on how it might be cut and sold, court documents state.

Although Dhatt argued that he was threatened to transport the cocaine and was under duress, there was not sufficient evidence of this presented in court.

Dhatt “accepted the cocaine in his trailer; drove for four days knowing he had cocaine in the truck; exercised control over it by opening, examining, ingesting, and repackaging it; and, expected to receive a substantial amount for bringing it to Canada.”

The trial judge sentenced Dhatt to 10 years in prison, less the 447 days he was in pre-sentence custody, and a concurrent sentence of seven years on the trafficking offence.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario panel of three judges rejected his argument that he was under duress and denied both the conviction and sentencing appeals.

The judges found Dhatt “accepted the cocaine in his trailer, knew it was there, and transferred it to the border in Michigan. He imported the cocaine for financial gain…”.

And the 10-year sentence is on the “low end of the range for this type of offence. In my view, the trial judge did not make any error in principle that affected the sentence, nor was it unfit.”

Court documents on the case can be found here.

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