Halifax arrests related to 'extraordinary' cocaine bust in United States

Law enforcement officials display drugs seized as part of an investigation, during a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday Sept. 26, 2023. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Law enforcement officials display drugs seized as part of an investigation, during a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday Sept. 26, 2023. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia RCMP say four people have been arrested in Halifax as part of an investigation into a "transnational criminal organization"  that also led to an "extraordinary" cocaine bust in the United States last month.

A 63-year-old woman and three men aged 35, 32 and 30, all of Halifax, face multiple drug-related charges. Police also seized four kilograms of cocaine, approximately $170,000 in cash and $120,000 in silver bars, electronic devices and six vehicles.

Nova Scotia RCMP announced the arrests and seizures at a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday, displaying tables piled with cocaine and marijuana, cash, silver bars and gold jewlery.

They also announced the conclusion of Operation Heinze, a 16-month investigation involving police on both sides of the border.

Drugs, money and other items seized as part of a police investigation are displayed at a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.
Drugs, money and other items seized as part of a police investigation are displayed at a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.

Drugs, money and other items seized as part of a police investigation on display at the news conference. (Robert Short/CBC)

"The successful results are part of a parallel investigation into a transnational criminal organization operating between the United States and Canada," said Matthew Scarpino, a special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations in Buffalo, N.Y.

"This criminal network used established smuggling methods to transport and distribute substantial quantities of cocaine."

The drug trafficking network at the centre of the operation spanned multiple countries and had links to Nova Scotia, Scarpino said.

"Through this investigation, we have significantly disrupted the day-to-day operations of this criminal organization and choked off a major drug pipeline of illicit narcotics into Canada and more specifically into the Halifax region," he said.

16-month investigation

The investigation began in the spring of 2022, when the RCMP began trying to identify the distribution networks of drug traffickers in Nova Scotia.

They said they identified a criminal group involving a Hamilton, Ont., man who they believed was importing cocaine and other drugs from the United States into Canada. The drugs were then networked through Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

"By the spring of 2023, this investigation had led to the identification of an International Criminal organization which was facilitating the movement of imported cocaine from Ontario to Eastern Canada, and that is considered to be in the upper echelon of drug trafficking networks within the Atlantic region," said Const. Chad Morrison of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

In May, Nova Scotia RCMP said they seized 40 kilograms of cocaine bound for Halifax during a traffic stop near the Cobequid Pass. A 52-year-old man from Bedford, N.S., was released from custody to appear in court at a later date.

Boxes of evidence are displayed at a news conference with law officials in Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.
Boxes of evidence are displayed at a news conference with law officials in Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.

Boxes of evidence are displayed at the news conference in Halifax on Tuesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

In August, police said the Hamilton man was arrested in Buffalo with 433 kilograms of cocaine destined for Canada. They described him as a 37-year-old commercial truck driver with ties to Nova Scotia's drug trade.

Following his arrest, RCMP said officers in Ontario conducted searches in the Hamilton and Niagara regions and discovered more evidence of drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Hamilton man remains in custody in the United States, RCMP said, but the other suspects have been released and will appear in court at a future date.

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