OPP's Investigation Leads To Record Inland Seizure Of Opium
(ORILLIA, ON) - Several individuals are facing numerous charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) as a result of an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)-led, intelligence-driven investigation.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) and Community Street Crime Units in Central and East Region began Project BERWICK in January 2020, investigating individuals trafficking opium in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Information obtained as a result of the investigation led to a traffic stop and opium seizure last week in the Belleville area. Further investigation identified and linked a location in Quebec and locations in Toronto at which search warrants were subsequently executed. It was ultimately determined that large quantities of opium were being stockpiled at the location in Quebec and later moved to the GTA for further distribution.
Massive Seizure Of Opium
Sophisticated Criminal Network
'It is not possible to obtain and distribute this quantity of opium without being part of a sophisticated criminal network and supply chain. The extent of this network is still under investigation but these drugs were undoubtedly destined to be broken down and distributed by local criminal entities. We are not done investigating this group," said OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau Major Case Manager - Detective Inspector Robert Henderson
Project BERWICK investigators have and will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement entities due to the multijurisdictional nature of this investigation. Given that Canada is not a country of origin for opium production, the OPP is committed to working with both domestic and international law enforcement organizations to determine the scope of this criminal network.
On April 22, 2020 the investigative team with the assistance of the East Region Emergency Response Team (ERT) conducted a vehicle stop in Belleville, which led to the arrest of two individuals as well as the seizure of 28 kilograms of opium. Evidence obtained from this traffic stop initiated the execution of three search warrants in North York, Thornhill and Wentworth-Nord, Quebec. Two more accused were arrested as a result of these search warrants and an additional 1,968 kilograms of opium was seized. The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) assisted with the warrant executed in Quebec. During the course of the investigation, the teams combined to seize a total 1,996 kilograms of opium. Based on a conservative estimate of $15,000 per kilogram, the street value of the opium seized in this investigation is just under $30 million.
Criminal Organizations Jeopardize The Safety Of Citizens
"Amidst a declared state of emergency within the Province of Ontario, these criminals continue to jeopardize the safety of our citizens with their blacriminal organizationstant disregard for the law and the health and well-being of our communities. This is testament to the fact that do not possess compassion or human decency and they capitalize on the trafficking of dangerous commodities to fund their criminal enterprises. I am proud of the investigative team for a seizure of this magnitude. We will continue to aggressively pursue these criminal organizations and incapacitate their networks," said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique
The quantity of opium seized within this investigation is significant. An inland opium seizure of this magnitude is historic for the OPP. The Project BERWICK investigative team has removed a tremendous supply of a dangerous commodity from drug trafficking networks in Canada.
The two individuals arrested during the vehicle stop were released on a Promise to Appear, and are expected for a first appearance in the coming months at an Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto. One accused has been held in custody, and one other was released unconditionally. Three individuals have been charged with a total 10 offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
Releasing the identity of the individuals charged could potentially compromise their safety.
The investigation is ongoing.
Opium (or poppy tears, scientific name: Lachryma papaveris) is dried latex obtained from the seed capsules of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum. Approximately 12 percent of opium is made up of the analgesic alkaloid morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opioids for medicinal use and for illegal drug trade. The latex also contains the closely related opiates codeine and thebaine, and non-analgesic alkaloids such as papaverine and noscapine.
In modern times, much of the thebaine, which often serves as the raw material for the synthesis for oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone.
Photo Right: Opium poppy seed pod exuding latex from a cut