It was a routine drug bust in Thunder Bay Tuesday. Executed by four different police forces working together, the bust turned up the usual illegal street drugs and one prohibited weapon.
Thunder Bay, ON - But police did not anticipate finding $1.2 million buried in a container on the grounds of the property being searched. A task force made up of members of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Thunder Bay Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service worked on the investigation that led to the raid. The investigation is still ongoing. Two Thunder Bay men were arrested and charged in the action.
Talking to the press about the unexpected finding of $1.2 million, Ontario Provincial Police spokesman Detective Staff Sargent Chris Lawrence told the Canadian Press "They were flabbergasted, to say the least." Police have said the buried money was linked to the drug dealing.
While police did not say how it was they came to find the buried container, they did say they confiscated 120 grams of cocaine, 50 Ecstasy tablets, 454 grams of marijuana, and two grams of cannabis resin, along with the unspecified prohibited weapon. The drugs were worth $22,000.
Both prescription drugs, sold on the street, and illegal street drugs are a concern in Thunder Bay and surrounding communities, such as Port Hope and Webequie First Nations. Some $20,560 worth of illegal drugs were seized at the Sandy Lake airport Wednesday.
Earlier this year, an investigation saw the arrest of a Thunder Bay truck driver after finding $2.8 million worth of Ecstasy in the cab of the truck. The owner of the truck, McKevitt Trucking, is one of Thunder Bay's major employers, with 200 employees.
The Thunder Bay Drug Strategy Steering Committee unveiled its intentions to plan a drug strategy for the city in November. Thunder Bay city councilor and Chair of the Drug Strategy Steering Committee said “The issue of substance misuse is complex, as it is linked to broader issues such as poverty, access to education, employment, inclusion in the community, crime, and violence. Great work is taking place in our community, but there is more that can be done to help prevent substance misuse and those who are affected.”
The police in Canada have the legal power to seize the assets of crime, although they have to prove that the assets were connected to the conduct of the crime. Should the police prove the $1.2 million was the proceeds of crime, they will be able to keep the money. None of the police have said how the money would be distributed between the four police forces involved in the bust.