Drug charges have been stayed against an Abbotsford man who was taken into custody earlier this year after evading arrest for nine years.
Justice Michael Tammen ruled in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminter that the charter rights were breached of Khamla Wong, also known as Khamla Siharaj, and, therefore, the evidence that led to his charges is inadmissible in court.
Wong, 51, was charged in 2012 with conspiracy to traffic 121 kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to import 97 kilgrams of cocaine and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm.
He was among seven men charged in relation to a drug investigation that spanned from B.C. to California, Mexico and Peru and involved “tens of millions” of dollars in illegal drugs, according to police.
But Wong wasn’t arrested until February of this year after arriving on an international flight at Vancouver airport after being deported to Canada. He had been arrested in Bangkok after he and another man were allegedly found in possession of 259 ecstasy tablets.
According to the judge’s rulings from June and July 2021 – posted online on Wednesday (Dec. 8) – a search warrant was executed in June 2009 at Wong’s home on Downes Road in Abbotsford.
The documents indicate that the warrant was obtained after police and border service agents had seized 97 kilograms in December 2008 from a commercial truck trailer transporting bananas.
Police became aware of the shipment due to email communications intercepted by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) involving an individual named Jeremy Stark and his associates.
Police believed the group was involved in a plot to extort the person responsible for transporting the cocaine.
The RCMP took possession of the BlackBerry network being operated by the DEA. They obtained authorization to intercept Stark’s communications, including BlackBerry emails, in February 2009, according to the court documents.
Messages were exchanged that led to a meeting between Stark and one of the BlackBerry users at a shopping mall food court in April 2009. A member of the police surveillance team who had dealt with Wong two years prior said Wong was the man who met with Stark.
These details were then used in the “information to obtain” (ITO) a search warrant for Wong’s home in Abbotsford. The search was executed in June 2009.
Tammen ruled that Wong’s charter rights were breached when the search warrant was incorrectly obtained on the basis that Wong was the user of the BlackBerry devices in question.
“Without evidence linking the accused to usage of those BlackBerry devices there was no evidence implicating him in the offences under investigation. Thus, there could not be any basis to believe that evidence related to those offences would be found at the home of the accused,” Tammen stated.
The justice also ruled that Wong’s charter rights were breached when the search warrant was being executed.
The court documents state that Wong was handed the search warrant and, after being told of his right to counsel, said he wanted to contact a lawyer.
Lead investigator, Det. Spearn, “did not immediately permit the accused to do so,” Tammen said in his ruling. He said Wong did not speak with a lawyer until approximately three hours after he was initially detained.
“The police conduct related to the search warrant was highly negligent. The conduct related to the right to counsel was disrespectful of one of the most basic rights afforded all detainees, in circumstances where a senior officer knew he was breaking the rules,” Tammen stated.
He concluded that allowing the evidence into court “would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”
Stark received a 13-year jail term in 2017 after being convicted of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and conspiracy to import cocaine.
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