RCMP in Whitehorse say they have significantly disrupted drug trafficking in the territory after a six-month investigation led to the arrest of eight people and the seizure of large quantities of illicit drugs including fentanyl.
Supt. Chan Daktari Dara, the criminal operations officer for the Yukon RCMP, said the investigation, dubbed Project Monterey and led by the RCMP's Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), led to the arrest of four people on June 1, and the search of two residences in the city.
During the searches, the RCMP seized two prohibited semi-automatic handguns, both loaded and one with a silencer, and 168.3 grams of a substance police believe is fentanyl, with an estimated street value of $84,000.
"It is one of the largest seizures of fentanyl," said Dara. "This could provide potentially over 1,600 doses."
Police also seized 528 grams of a substance they think is cocaine, with an estimated street value of approximately $66,000, 388 Dilaudid hydromorphone pills with an estimated value of $21,000, and 1,043 benzodiazepine pills with an estimated street value of $7,000.
They also seized $148,000 in cash and assorted drug paraphernalia.
Dara said two days later, on June 3, CRU "arrested an additional four individuals associated to the same investigation." He added they were all already incarcerated.
29 charges, including participating in organized crime activities
"As a result of Project Monterey, these eight individuals are facing a total of 29 charges related to drug trafficking, money laundering, proceeds of crime, firearms offences and failing to comply with conditions," said Dara.
He added the eight people arrested also face a charge of participating in the activities of organized crime.
Dara said that as far as he knows, this is the first time anybody in Yukon has been charged under section 467.1 of the Criminal Code.
"[It's] very difficult to prove the elements of the offence," he said. "And the fact that the CRU team were able to gather strong evidence enough for that charge to be laid is a testament to their hard work."
Dara said silencers and semi-automatic handguns are commonly used by organized crime groups in other parts of the country.
"To find one in the Yukon is obviously very alarming," he said.
Illicit drugs in communities
The investigation also collected evidence that the group of eight people supplied illicit drugs in Old Crow, Mayo, Dawson City and Whitehorse, including the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, according to Dara.
He said the RCMP is still looking into who the eight accused are associated with.
"But the fact that they have this type of weaponry, this amount of cash on hand and this amount of illicit drugs on hand, it shows that they're well connected to people that obviously have access to large quantities," Dara said.