'The old man' charged with weapons offences linked to $1.2B Aussie drug bust

A B.C. retiree suspected of heading an international drug syndicate is facing weapons charges related to guns seized from his subsidized home following an investigation that resulted in Australia's biggest-ever drug bust.

Both Rolando Guajardo and his daughter, Melissa Valeska Guajardo, are scheduled to appear in Vancouver Provincial Court later this month to face firearms possession charges connected to a Beretta pistol and a shotgun allegedly found in their Burnaby townhome last February.

They already face a lawsuit from B.C.'s director of civil forfeiture seeking to keep $3.2 million in cash found bundled around their low-income residence during a police raid that followed a month-long, multi-agency investigation.

'The old man'

According to a search warrant obtained by the CBC, the RCMP was brought into the case by the Australian Federal Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last January.

Australian authorities allegedly intercepted communications linking Guajardo to the owner of a California-based car-speaker business accused of trying to smuggle more than a billion dollars worth of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin down under.

Metro Vancouver

Nasser Abo Abdo and his wife, Leonor Fajardo, were arrested to great fanfare in Australia after police found the drugs hidden inside 850 car speaker units.

Guajardo's girlfriend is Rosa Fajardo, the sister of Leonor Fajardo.

According to the search warrant, Australian Federal Police also believe the 70-year-old is one of two offshore syndicate heads who "have formed a partnership to import illicit drugs to Australia."

Guajardo is allegedly referred to as "Tio" in the wiretaps — Spanish for uncle — or as The Old Man.

"Guajardo was making inquiries about a container that was intercepted by law enforcement in the port of Melbourne. The container seized contained one billion dollars of drugs," the search warrant says.

"Guajardo referenced that people didn't know how to send drugs anymore and that the system they have was very professional. Guajardo stated it was likely that the container was badly packed and narcotic dogs detected it."

Flagged by FINTRAC

Neither Guajardo or his daughter have filed a response to the civil forfeiture claim and they have yet to answer to the weapons charges in provincial court.

Guajardo does not face any charges in Australia.

B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Act allows the province to file suit against property linked to unlawful activity, regardless of whether or not a person has been convicted or even charged with a crime.

Australian Federal Police

To win, the director of civil forfeiture has to establish that the property in question is either the proceeds of crime or an instrument of unlawful activity.

The civil suit refers to both the Beretta .25 calibre pistol and the 20 gauge Barkal shotgun which are the basis of the firearms charges against Guajardo and his daughter.

Police also allegedly found millions of dollars in Canadian currency stuffed in plastic bags, sports bags and boxes spread around their home, with nearly $1 million tucked under beds.

And they used metadata allegedly taken from Guajardo's cellphone to link a picture of a vacuum-sealed bag containing a block of white powder believed to be cocaine with his Burnaby residence.

At the time the drug bust was revealed, Australian police said they believed the drugs had come from a violent Mexican cartel working with Aussie biker gangs.

The civil forfeiture suit claims Guajardo was flagged by FINTRAC — the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada — four times in 2018 — for depositing more than $10,000 in a personal bank account.

He is also allegedly the subject of suspicious transactions totalling $60,000 US at Palm Springs, Calif., casinos.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.