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Massive opium bust at Port of Vancouver leads to warehouse sting

Police and border officers swap out $8M of drug from two containers before tracking decoy shipment to destination

Canadian authorities discovered nearly $8 million worth of opium in two shipping containers at the Port of Vancouver's Deltaport. (Photo: Canada Border Service Agency)

Seizing nearly $8 million worth of opium found in shipping containers at Port of Vancouver wasn’t enough for Canadian police and border officers. They swapped out the drugs with a dummy substance and followed the shipment to a warehouse where they arrested five suspects.

Authorities disclosed the operation on Monday, more than six weeks after the Feb. 11 opium bust at Vancouver’s Deltaport — the largest container terminal in Canada — and after months of investigation. There, officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Federal Serious and  Organized Crime unit and Canada Border Services Agency served a warrant on two shipping containers that had arrived from overseas.

Officers found 2,500 packages of suspected opium weighing a combined 2,204 pounds, the RCMP and CBSA said in statements. The CA$10 million ($7.9 million) bust represented one of the largest opium seizures recorded by the CBSA.

Officers seized the drugs and replaced it with a placebo to allow the probe to continue “without further risk to Canadians.”

Read: Trucker charged after smoking opium while driving, police say

With the opium swapped out, officers followed the shipment as it was transported to a warehouse in nearby Surrey, British Columbia. 

“If it was just seized and nothing was done to follow it, it would have been difficult to build a case,” RCMP Sgt. Kris Clark, a spokesperson for the Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit, told FreightWaves.

5 suspects arrested in operation – but one escapes after opium seized

Clark declined to divulge how the opium shipment was transported to the warehouse. But in all likelihood, it happened via truck.

Officers arrested five suspects at the warehouse, while a sixth escaped. 

“Anytime there’s going to be multiple people arrested, it’s a very dynamic situation, he said.

Authorities have not released the identities of the suspects, who have not been charged. They include four men from Ontario and one from Vancouver. 

Clark would not say whether those arrested included warehouse workers and truck drivers. Other details being held back include the origin of the shipment and the vessel it came from.

The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s busiest port. 

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected].