01/26/2012 10:31 EST | Updated 03/27/2012 05:12 EDT

$3.5M In Cocaine-Stuffed Pineapples Seized


Border officials have made two seizures of cocaine at the Port of Saint John, with an estimated street value of $3.5 million, officials announced on Thursday.

A total of 28 kilograms was seized, officials said.

The first seizure, made public on Wednesday, involved 80 cocaine-stuffed pineapples being discovered on a marine container on Aug. 25.

Nineteen kilograms of cocaine was concealed inside the hollowed-out fruit.

Then, on Oct. 11, a second, similar shipment from Guyana was discovered. Officials found nine kilograms of cocaine in that case.

Both of the shipments had been destined for Ontario – Scarborough and Brampton respectively.

A total of nine people have been arrested in connection with the two cases.

Evidence suggests the people arrested have ties to criminal organizations in Jamaica, Guyana, Costa Rica and the United States, officials said.

"Today, as we celebrate International Customs Day, we want to remind Canadians of the important work our officers do to protect our borders and keep our country safe," Andrew LeFrank, regional director general for the CBSA Atlantic region, stated in a news release.

"Our officers are Canada's first line of defence in seizing illegal drugs," he said.

The drugs were discovered during secondary examinations of the marine containers, said Don Collins, the director of CBSA for southern New Brunswick and P.E.I. district.

Using X-ray technology and detector dogs, officers found anomalies with the pineapples, he said.

The cocaine was in plug and pellet forms.

The first container had 436 boxes of pineapples, said Collins. Cocaine was found in 80 pineapples scattered throughout 44 of those boxes, he said.

Officers searched a total of 2,200 boxes containing pineapples and mangoes on the second container. Of those, 156 boxes had pineapples stuffed with cocaine.

These incidents were the first time drugs have been found concealed in pineapples at the Saint John port, said Collins. But over the past few years, there have been several large seizures of drugs hidden in fruits and vegetables at land borders, he said.

The containers were on a container ship that visits Saint John on a regular basis, said Collins. He declined to name the ship, or the line.

Collins believes the drugs would have been transported to Ontario by rail.

The CBSA contacted the RCMP and Saint John Police Force after the initial seizure. A subsequent investigation by the RCMP resulted in charges against six people in Ontario.

After the second seizure, the CBSA again contacted the RCMP and Saint John police and as a result, three Ontario males were arrested.

"It's operations like this one that demonstrate that strong partnerships — partnerships between CBSA and RCMP — is necessary to effectively combat organized crime," said Supt. Guy Rook, the RCMP's federal policing officer for New Brunswick.

"What began with the discovery of cocaine in the Saint John Port has ultimately led to a large-scale organized drug trafficking ring with (several) people facing charges and large quantities of drugs seized," he said.

"The chain of events that led to yesterday's arrests in Ontario, beginning with CBSA's discovery of cocaine concealed in pineapples, exemplifies the sort of intelligence-sharing, cross agency co-operation, interprovincial communication and team work that is necessary to effectively combat organized crime."