VANCOUVER - Two British Columbians have been convicted of trying to smuggle nearly eight kilograms of ecstasy to Australia more than three years ago.
Canada Border Services Agency officers at Vancouver International Airport found the drugs in hidden compartments in the suitcases of Nadine Prevost, 33, and Michel Tremblay, 49, on April 9, 2010.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Fitch said the central issue in the case focused on whether the accused knew their checked luggage contained illicit drugs.
"It is not contested that both accused exercised control over the luggage that contained the narcotics," said Fitch. "It was admitted at trial by both accused that all three pieces of luggage contained MDMA (ecstasy)."
According to the ruling, the accused, who were travelling together, were stopped as they were ready to board Air Canada flight 33 for Sydney, Australia.
Neither was able to respond to questions with "consistent or sensible answers," and as a result, officers formed reasonable grounds the suspects were exporting illegal narcotics, stated the ruling.
Both were then detained, cautioned and advised of their right to counsel and their luggage — three pieces — was removed from the aircraft.
Officers eventually opened the suitcases and found packages of ecstasy totalling 7.87 kilograms in hidden compartments.
At the time, according to the ruling, Tremblay was drinking to the point of intoxication and using marijuana and cocaine. He was also addicted to pain killers after a motor-vehicle accident.
Prevost, a mother of two teenaged children, one of whom has special needs, was unemployed at the time, and has been on income and social assistance for several years.
Both testified in court that a drug dealer named Jimmy approached them at a pub on a separate occasion and asked if they wanted to go on a trip.
Prevost said Jimmy introduced her to Tremblay about two weeks before their arrest.
She said she was paid $5,000 for the trip, and on the day of departure, Jimmy brought three suitcases to her house, adding said she didn't think that was unusual.
Prevost said Jimmy also gave her an envelope with travel documents, contact information and their passports.
Meantime, Tremblay testified he left for the airport and had no money for travel expenses and didn't know where it would come from.
Fitch noted Tremblay said under cross examination that Jimmy assured him on the day of the trip that money, not drugs, was involved in the trip.
"When it was put to him in cross-examination that he sought assurances from Jimmy that he would not be transporting drugs because he was concerned about it, Tremblay replied that he never gave it any thought but that Jimmy's assurances nevertheless made him feel better because he did not want to be transporting drugs," said Fitch.
"When asked whether he thought that Jimmy was asking him to do something illegal, Tremblay said, 'Yes, but in another country,'" added Fitch.
"When asked in cross-examination to agree with the proposition that he was getting paid for doing something illegal, Tremblay replied, 'I didn't think about it like that. I don't recall how I thought at the time. I didn't pay attention to it.'"
Fitch said neither Prevost nor Tremblay was a credible witness and he rejected their testimony, noting their "innocent dupe" defences made no sense.
"A considerable quantity of drugs was involved and, in the context of this case, it makes no sense that Jimmy would trick either accused," he said.
"The drugs had to be passed over to those awaiting their receipt and, contrary to the testimony of both accused, it only stands to reason that for the scheme to succeed, the couriers must have had specific delivery instructions."
Fitch said he could have also convicted both on the basis they were reckless about the contents of the suitcases.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.