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We’re innocent pawns, say B.C. truck drivers

By Hempology | January 9, 2003

Criminals are stashing drugs aboard their rigs, they insist

From the Times Colonist, January 2nd, 2003

By Andrienne Tanner

SPOKANE, Wash. – Behind the safety glass at the jail in Spokane, Okanagan truck driver Brian Frolek
has the desperately worried look of a man who faces up to five years in prison.

Frolek was caught in October at the U.S. border with 80 kilograms of marijuana in his truck, a stash
he believes was planted while his real cargo was being loaded in Merritt.

“I don’t need to make extra money,” said Frolek, a 48-year-old father of two with no criminal record.
“My wife makes $60,000 a year. I did not (knowingly) take pot across.”

His case is not unique. Frolek is just one of dozens of Canadian truck drivers who have been caught by
U.S. customs agents with loads of marijuana in the post-9/11 heightened-security era.

Like Frolek, most have proclaimed their innocence and argued that it is impossible for drivers to
precisely monitor the contents of their loads.

The trucking companies that employ them have insisted that they are the victims of shady criminals
who pay operatives bonuses rumoured to be as high as $10,000 per shipment.

Frokel said eh left his truck to shower and eat breakfast while it was being loaded and knew nothing
about the eight hockey bags of B.C. bud stashed behind a load divider in the front end of his trailer.

As far as he knew, said Frolek, his cargo consisted entirely of wood chips from a sawmill in Merritt.
Customs officials were tipped to the shipment by two anonymous letters advising them to search
Frolek’s truck.

Jurors at Frolek’s first trial earlier this month could not reach a verdict. He will be tried again this
spring, said Frank Cikutovich, his Spokane lawyer.

Ranjit Gugay, a truck driver and memeber of the Teamsters Union who has never had border problems of
his own, said all drivers operate on faith that the companies and loaders who fill their trucks are

“I’m totally at their disposal as to what’s in there,” he said.

U.S. defence lawyers in Spokane, Bellingham, Wash., and other U.S. cities hugging the border have a
growing list of Canadian truckers as clients. They say that although some are obviously running drugs
for money, others appear to be innocent pawns in Canada’s multibillion-dollar underground industry.

The hottest buzz on the legal grapevine now concerns connections between the largest marijuana busts
at western border crossings this year.

Since January, three trucks – each carrying 450 kilograms of B.C. bud, along with their legitimate cargoes,
pallets of Molson beer, bundles of waste paper and loads of peat moss – have been seized at the U.S.

A Southam Newspapers investigation shows the trucks impounded at Blaine and Oroville, Wash., at
Sweetgrass, Mont., nd during a similar arrest in Sault Ste. Marie, One., this year, all had links to
two transport companies that share the same Langley address.

The curious connection has American defence lawyers talking.

“If you want my opinion, I think they are completely being set up,” said Christina Hunt, a lawyer
from Spokane. “I honestly believe … that my client had no idea what was in the bottom of that truck,
none whatsoever.”

Hunt’s client was Gurjinder Singh Shoker, a Surrey trucker who was a passenger in a truck
nabbed at the Oroville crossing in March.

Hidden in a secret compartment behind the load of waste paper were 450 kilograms of marijuana
worth an estimated $6 million US.

Shoker and his friend, driver Amandeep Singh Sidhu, insisted they had no idea they were carrying
drugs, and were acquitted of all charges.

Sidhu had been hired by Gurwinder Bath, a lease operator who owns his own truck and drove for
R&S Transportation of Langley.

R&S shares an office with Galaxy Freightways, another company that has also had pot-laden trucks
impounded at the border.

The two companies share space at 20075 100A Ave. in Langley but are otherwise unrelated, said Harjeet Virk,
president of R&S.

Virk had little to say about the Sidhu and Shoker case or any other drug seizures: “I don’t want to comment
on anything or be involved in anything.”

Other cases connected to the Langley address include:

· Gordon Oostenbrink of Courtenay was arrested May 12 hauling a trailer registered to Guo Xin
Huang of Toronto. He was pulled over by the Ontario Provincial Police at Sault Ste. Marie truck stop.
Hidden behind a false wall were 24 hockey bags studfed with 343 kilos of pot and 20,000 tablets of

Canadian police did not lay charges and would not comment on the case. However, Oostenbrink
and Galaxy Freightways are both charged in the U.S. along with Huang with smuggling and conspiring
to import marijuana.

· Jaswinder Singh Dhillon of Brampton, Ont., was arrested Jan. 15 in Blaine with cargo
of Molson beer and 636 kilos of B.C. bud. Dhillon worked for Galaxy Enterprises.

Meantime, in Peachland, Brian Frolek’s wife Donna is praying that, next time, the jury will side with
her husband, whom she believes absolutely to be innocent.

When she is not working as an emergency nurse, Donna spends her time writing letters and lobbying
politicians in support of Brian.

She said she dare not visit Spokane, where he is being held in a closet-like cell with a cellmate who
can not help watching every move he makes, even using the toilet.

As co-owner of the truck and company, Donna is afraid she too would be arrested if she tries to enter
the United States.

“Then who will fight for my husband?” she said.

“I can’t believe this whole thing has happened to us. I mean, one day your whole life is perfect.”

“You think, ‘God, you know, I’m 50 years old and … going to be able to work at home at our own
business and things are good.’ And then, Poof.”

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