Montreal | Unprecedented cocaine seizures

During the first six months of the year, 173 kilograms of cocaine were seized by investigators from the Antigang of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal. These are only 27 kg from the total of 200 kg seized throughout last year, which was already an exceptional year in this regard.


Posted at 1:23 a.m.
Updated at 5:00 a.m.

“It’s unheard of,” says Francis Renaud, commander of the Organized Crime Division (DCO).

The officer explains the situation in particular by the arrival in the metropolis of large quantities of cocaine which passed through the Toronto region.

Information leads us to believe that the kilos of cocaine have new routes or land routes that were previously less used. The drugs arrive in trucks, through legal and illegal companies, in Toronto. Toronto is the port of entry and there is more than one door.

Francis Renaud, Commander of the Organized Crime Division of the SPVM

“You can’t say how much drugs were coming from Toronto before, but what has changed is that our suspects are going there a lot more often. U.S. too. We are in constant contact with the Ontario police. We have never helped each other so much,” said Commander Renaud.

A volume of “20 kilos per day”

“The quantities that are seized are also greater. Before, a seizure of a few tens of kilos, we made one per year. In the spring, we did one a month when it wasn’t one every two weeks,” adds the officer.

The 173 kg seized during the first six months of the year were actually seized in only five investigation files.

The largest seizure (43 kg) was made on May 29 in a building on Lennox Street in Montreal.

A man, Jesse Wiseman, has been arrested and charged. He is officially a real estate broker and has no criminal record.

During his release investigation, an investigator, Mathieu-Olivier Couture, said that Jesse Wiseman would be a man of confidence of Erasmo Crivello, described as “a large independent cocaine importer, who has links with organized crime traditional Italian (COTI) and which, according to our information, is able to provide a volume of 20 kilos per day”.

The 43 packages displayed different logos, including the caricatured profile of former US President Donald Trump.

PHOTO FILED IN COURT

If you look closely, you can notice the profile of the face and the name of the former American president Donald Trump on this kilogram of cocaine seized at the end of May.

In the condo that served as a drug cache, officers found accounting in a box of Lucky Charms cereal. According to the reading that investigator Couture made of this accounting, at least 300 kg would have passed through this condo and between 10 and 20 kg would have been sold each day.

The investigator also set the value of the 43 kg seized in May to at least 10 million once the drugs were cut and sold on the street.

The low price per kilo

The investigation shows that some kilograms would have been sold at a cost of $21,500, the lowest price ever seen in Montreal.

But Commander Renaud believes that the current price of a kilogram of cocaine in Montreal is more around $27,000, whereas in normal times, it is around $50,000.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Francis Renaud, Commander of the Organized Crime Division of the SPVM

“It means there is a lot of cocaine coming into Canada or the supplier has too much. International organizations say that in Peru, during the pandemic, suppliers had difficulty selling their merchandise, that they ended up with large inventories, thus lowering prices. Several people find themselves in possession of good quantities, compete with each other and prices drop,” explains Commander Francis Renaud.

A recent UN report indicates that coca production in producing countries increased by 35% in 2021 as the number of users exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, in North America and Europe.

Cocaine 101

Here is, in general, in a simplified and non-exhaustive way, how the main stages of the importation, distribution and sale of cocaine take place in Montreal in 2023.

The Coke Journey

The main cocaine producing countries are Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. Criminal organizations here order quantities from cocaine suppliers or cartels and pay for the drugs through international transfers or other means. The ordered drugs arrive in Mexico by different means. Mainly by land, the means most used by traffickers in recent years, the drug then crosses Mexico and the United States and enters Canada. Each time cocaine crosses a border, the price per kilogram doubles.

Well-identified producers

In general, a large part of the imported kilograms are already placed or sold before they even arrive in the country. Organizations pre-publish the offered merchandise through encrypted applications. The kilograms have been pressed in the producing country and each bears the logo of the supplier group or cartel. These logos are used to identify the suppliers, but also the customers for whom the kilograms are intended.

PHOTO FILED IN COURT

Several of the 43 kilograms seized by SPVM Antigang investigators on May 29 bore the mark H2O.

Generally, the percentage of purity of the drug is high. Each kilogram is vacuum packed in a sealed film, to demonstrate that the drug has not been manipulated. It is then coated with a dark substance to mask the smell. The organizations receiving the kilograms must ensure the goods received: logos, weights, etc. However, organizations specialize in counterfeiting, transforming kilos and cheating on logos. These are sold cheaper in the market.

Cheaper in Toronto

For the past two years, many traffickers from Montreal have been getting their supplies from Toronto, where the price per kilogram is said to be $3,000 to $4,000 lower. They pick up the drugs in a vehicle and bring them to Montreal. While waiting to be sold, the kilograms are stored in an apartment which serves as a cache. Often the place is unfurnished and unmanned, and equipment for processing, cutting and handling drugs can be found there. The person controlling the cache often has no criminal record, so as not to arouse suspicion. She generally delivers the kilos of cocaine in bags and receives in exchange wads of notes attached by rubber bands of different colors, each representing a value, to facilitate counting. Bundles are also vacuum-packed to prevent theft.

Always less pure

An organization that is not satisfied with the quality of the drug can return it for replacement. The first buyers of the kilograms then resell them to others. The kilos thus become half kilos, then quarter kilos, and finally ounces. An ounce of cocaine (28 g) is pressed again and called puck. At this point, the cocaine has been cut more than once and may have become 20% pure. We are at the level of street vendors.

No inflation in the street

Cocaine can be sold on the street in quarter-gram, half-gram or one-gram sachets. Each bag has a different color. A dose of cocaine is supposed to be 0.25g, but it is often 0.20g. It is sold for $20. Cocaine can also be crystallized as crack. A crack rock contains 0.1g of cocaine and is also sold for $20 on the street. These prices have been the same for years.

Debt slaves

Each individual or group that possesses the kilograms of cocaine becomes responsible for it and finds itself in debt to the organization in the event of a police seizure. During his testimony, investigator Mathieu-Olivier Couture used the term “slave” to describe a person who is in debt to an organization and who is forced to work for it to repay his debt.

Export

Criminal organizations here are increasingly involved in the export of cocaine to Australia, where it is sold at three to four times the price.

The second part of this article, “Cocaine 101”, is based in particular on information from sources and on the testimony of investigator Mathieu-Olivier Couture during the investigation into the release of Jesse Wiseman.

To reach Daniel Renaud, dial 514 285-7000, ext. 4918, write to [email protected] or write to the postal address of The Press.

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