Items seized by police on display in Vaughan, Ontario on September 25, 2013.
Credits: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
VAUGHAN, Ont. -- A lengthy joint forces investigation has dismantled a drug trafficking network of "international proportion" and prevented more than $200 million worth of heroin, cocaine and other drugs from hitting Canadian streets.
Ontario Provincial Police , Toronto cops and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers revealed details Wednesday of their lengthy probe -- dubbed Project Infinity -- which began with a major heroin seizure three years ago and ended with 17 people facing charges.
"This joint investigation means hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken out of the hands of a criminal enterprise and prevented illegal drugs from getting into the hands of our young people," OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis said at a press conference in Vaughan, north of Toronto.
He said the "complex" team effort involved undercover work and led to the "extraordinary" seizure of 24 kilos of heroin, as well as large amounts of cocaine, opium, crystal meth and ephedrine.
The drugs seized are worth about $79 million to "high-level distributors," Lewis said. But once cut and sold at street level, the illegal drugs would have fetched more than $200 million.
Lewis said the drug bust disrupted a criminal enterprise and will surely have "a significant impact" on community safety.
Project Infinity began with CBSA officers intercepting 27 drug-laced carpets at Pearson International Airport on June 25, 2010.
Goran Vragovic, the CBSA's regional director general of the GTA region, said the carpets were shipped to Toronto from Pakistan and had 15 kilos of heroin woven into their fibres.
It was a drug smuggling method not seen before.
"Traffickers are always looking for new ways to import drugs," Toronto Police deputy chief Mark Saunders said.
Canadian investigators have made several busts since May 2011, when authorities in Peru intercepted a package containing more than a kilogram of coke destined for Canada.
Project Infinity initially resulted in 11 arrests and 76 charges.
But the execution of eight search warrants in the GTA on Tuesday led to charges against another six people who were already before the courts.
During those searches, officers seized more drugs, $538,000 in cash and six vehicles.
Charged are Ally Mustapher Songambele, 43, and Tony Ezeh, 39, both from Toronto; Bounchanh Vongthavy, 43, Van Nguyen, 46, and Hien Nguyen, 45, all from Newmarket, Ont.; Sabrullah Khan, 24, Erick Santana, 27, Hassanali Hassanali, 45, and Ines De Jesus-Paulino, 43, all of Brampton, Ont.; Chia Foo Lim, 35, and Hasan Hatemi, 43, both from Mississauga, Ont.; Wai Loon (Allen) Kong, 34, of Stouffville, Ont., Andy Ching, 39, of Markham, Ont., Brandon Rilling, 24, of Oshawa, Ont., Lawrance Mtawali, 46, of Hamilton, Ont., Michael Ellison, 32, of Dunnville, Ont., and Seyed Medhi Ghayouri, 48, of London, England.