Closing arguments presented in Talal Khatib drug trial in Inuvik

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Closing arguments were heard in the trial for Talal Khatib, a former landlord in Inuvik charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and proceeds of crime. (David Thurton/CBC - image credit)
Closing arguments were heard in the trial for Talal Khatib, a former landlord in Inuvik charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and proceeds of crime. (David Thurton/CBC - image credit)

The Supreme Court in Inuvik heard closing arguments in the Talal Khatib trial Thursday.

The former landlord is accused of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possessing the proceeds of crime.

Khatib was 65 years old when he was charged in October 2017, after police searched his Inuvik home. Police said they found 350 grams of cocaine and more than $25,000 in cash throughout the residence, including about $260 stuffed inside a cut in a mattress.

RCMP also discovered salvia and 500 grams of marijuana, significantly over the limit of 30 grams, which Canadians are legally permitted to possess, though only cocaine was included in the charges before the court.

Earlier in the week, RCMP officers testified on the surveillance that was done leading up to Khatib's arrest.

Khatib again joined the trial via video from his residence in Edmonton.

His lawyer, Katherine Oja, argued that Khatib had no knowledge of the cocaine found in the residence. She said it was Khatib's housemate who was in possession of the cocaine.

The housemate was never charged in the case or summoned by either the Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane, or Oja, to testify.

Inuvik RCMP
Inuvik RCMP

Although Oja said $180 was found on Khatib at the time of his arrest, and another $500 was found in his pants in a bedroom, it's unclear whether the rest of the money and the cocaine in the house was in his possession.

To link the money and cocaine to Khatib would be speculation, she said, adding that there is "no direct evidence or knowledge" and that the Crown would have to make a "leap" that Khatib knew it was there.

The cocaine, salvia and marijuana were all found in a couch near a window in the house, where police observed Khatib making "hand-to-hand exchanges."

Oja said the interactions observed were not sale of cocaine but rather salvia.

She pointed instead to the housemate as being in possession of the cocaine as he moved in at a time when Khatib was out of town. A testimony from Victor Ciboci also indicates that in exchange for fixing the house's hot water, the housemate offered to pay Ciboci in powdered cocaine. Ciboci said Khatib was again out of town at the time.

Oja further pointed to a ladder in the basement where the housemate lived, which lead to a hole connected to Khatib's bedroom upstairs.

Oja said because of these alternatives, the Crown could not prove Khatib's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fane conceded that the housemate may have known about the drugs, but added that living in the basement while the cocaine was stored upstairs makes it "a stretch too far" to conclude the housemate was in control of the operation.

He points to a testimony from the landlord indicating the hole connecting the basement to the bedroom – which was covered by plywood – was not there before the house's two residents moved in.

Considering the RCMP's surveillance of Khatib's "suspicious interactions" and the cash found in his possession, Fane asserted that Khatib had knowledge and control of both the crack and powdered cocaine, and they were obtained with the purpose to be trafficked.

Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau said in court Thursday that she would make her decision in Yellowknife in the fall.

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