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By Hempology | July 17, 2005

OSOYOOS — It was the largest drug seizure in the history of the Okanagan-Kootenay district of the Canada Border Services Agency

“I’m pleased to announce that ( officers at the Osoyoos border crossing ) have seized over 100 kilograms of marijuana,” said Alan Prolifi, district superintendent for Canada Border Services Agency

The announcement was made Thursday at the border crossing, next to a table stacked high with 192 vacuumsealed bags full of marijuana, worth up to $500,000. It started with a few routine questions for the driver of a tractor-trailer travelling to the United States on Monday, said Robbin Walterhouse, an inspector and detector dog handler. He was on shift with his canine partner, Shad, when he and Prolifi noticed the driver’s suspicious behaviour. Jasdeep Singh Litt of Surrey was taking the truck to Washington with a load of recycled paper and cardboard

Between six and 30 vehicles are questioned at random at the crossing each day, said Walterhouse. The random checks include vehicles coming into Canada from the United States and outbound commercial vehicles. Litt was one of the random checks made before entry into the United States

The officers generally look for a few hints that suggest closer examination is in order. This was one of those cases. “He avoided eye contact. All these little things — he seemed very deflated,” Walterhouse said. “The gentleman seemed a little bit off.” That led to a routine sweep by Shad, a black Labrador retriever detector dog who has worked with Walterhouse for the last four years to sniff out contraband

The dog starts at the front of the truck and sniffs his way up and down each side of the vehicle. Shad is trained to detect the odour of illegal substances including marijuana, hash, hash oil, cocaine, heroin and opium.

The officers opened the tailgate of the truck for a sniff, and then worked back up to the cab. It takes Shad only about 15 seconds to sweep the inside of such a vehicle

“As soon as he hit the inside of the tractor, I noticed a change in him,” said Walterhouse, noting Shad got more animated, almost hyper

“When he got to the ceiling, he gave his alert.” When Shad finds the strongest part of the odour, he quietly sits and doesn’t move. On Monday, he was focused on the ceiling above the sleeper cab of the truck

“It just looked like a normal truck roof,” Walterhouse said, describing the padding, complete with fabric buttons covering the screws holding it in place. But they couldn’t budge the cover

“This thing was solid, you could not pull it down.” The specially designed compartment was electronically controlled, almost like an electric trunk release. After they shorted out the wires, they found the hidden storage space holding the 102.6 kg of marijuana

That’s when the case was turned over to the South Okanagan RCMP detachment

Staff Sgt. Walter Makepeace said this is a significant bust

“All we can say is it’s probably not likely it is the first load that was in that truck,” he said. “It’s a billion-dollar industry in British Columbia, and the vast majority is leaving British Columbia to the east and to the United States.” Prolifi said they continue to see new methods of smuggling

“They’re getting more sophisticated,” he said. “This was obviously professionally done.” RCMP would not estimate the value of the seizure, as it depends on the market. Non-police sources peg the street value of good quality B.C. bud at between $3,300 and $4,400 per kg — higher in the U.S. — for a total estimated street value of just under $500,000. Litt has been charged with unlawfully exporting drugs and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

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