Charges withdrawn against accused air-mobile drug smugglers

Cops say group used helicopter to drop bags of Canadian cannabis into New York, Vermont

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The Crown has stayed charges against a group of accused cannabis smugglers Mounties allege used a privately-registered helicopter to air-drop illegally-grown cannabis into the United States.

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In September 2020, the RCMP arrested four men — Kamal Deep Bassan, of Vaughan; Ramindejit Assi, of Burlington; Derek Chi-Yeung Ng, of East Gwillimbury; and Parmjot Saini, of Woodbridge — alleging they were illegally growing cannabis and delivering it to buyers in the U.S. via helicopter.

Those charges were stayed in Dec. 2020.

That helicopter is now the subject of a contested civil forfeiture, according to court documents obtained by CTV News — who reported Bassan and Assi were listed as directors of a numbered company associated with the aircraft.

Canadian civil aviation records list that numbered company as owner of the helicopter — a privately-registered 1978 Bell Jetranger 206B originally shipped to Indonesia before ending up in Texas in 2000.

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Illegal marijuana grow-op that police claimed was connected to a cross-border, helicopter-based smuggling operation.
Illegal marijuana grow-op that police claimed was connected to a cross-border, helicopter-based smuggling operation. Photo by Handout /Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The aircraft ended up in Burlington, Ont. six years later before being put up for sale in March 2017, with the numbered company taking ownership in August 2018.

In April 2019, Mounties allege the helicopter dropped a little over 45 kilograms of bagged cannabis while hovering over Beaver Island — a secluded spit of land on the southern tip of Grand Island, New York just across the Niagara River from Fort Erie, Ont.

Court documents say the drugs were seized by U.S. Homeland Security, who noticed the helicopter — in spite of it flying low and operating with a deactivated transponder.

The same helicopter was spotted flying into the U.S. again in the summer of 2019, this time quickly dipping south across the border to allegedly drop its cannabis cargo in Vermont — about 125 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

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The group was arrested in Montreal while towing the helicopter back to Ontario.

Members of the RCMP’s Hamilton-Niagara Serious and Organized Crime Unit reported seizing 800 illegal marijuana plants, a quantity of dried cannabis, 400 grams of cocaine, and a number of handguns.

Police also seized the helicopter, along with the truck and trailer being used to transport it back to Ontario.

While the crown told CTV the charges were stayed because pursuing the case was “no longer in the public interest,” Bassan and Assi’s lawyer Brian Greenspan claimed there were problems with the search warrants.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter:  @bryanpassifiume

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