Three men charged in connection with the importing a piece of machinery filled with almost 100 kilos of cocaine have all been found guilty.
Salvador Ascencio-Chavez (also known as Victor Perez Rodriguez), Clifford Montgomery, and Tariq Aslam were all convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
Chavez and Montgomery were also found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Vigilant custom authorities in Vancouver discovered the cocaine inside a fruit grinder in September 2010. The large package had been sent from Argentina and was bound for Kelowna, with 97 kilos packaged inside three cylinders.
An elaborate sting operation followed which included removing the narcotics and replacing them with fake drugs, before reassembling the unit and sending it back on its way.
Officers bugged the pallet that the machine was strapped to with an audio recorder and also set up a video surveillance unit at the storage area where the unit was finally delivered.
The court heard that once the machine had been picked up by the three men and taken to a ranch near Merritt, police had their evidence in both audio and visual form.
In reading her decision, Justice Alison Beames said she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that although the Crown’s case had been very circumstantial, the puzzle pieces fit and each man was convicted for their part in the drug smuggling.
Chavez and Aslam were arrested in October 2010 in California, near the Mexico border; Montgomery a week prior near his home in West Kelowna.
Chavez has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, but with credit for time served, will serve just over half that time.
Montgomery and Aslam have been out on bail and will be sentenced at a later date.