A suitcase stuffed with $2.6 million in U.S. bills came from the drug trade, an RCMP money laundering expert testified in Victoria provincial court.
Jeffrey Melchior, a 46-year-old Lake Cowichan resident, is charged with money laundering and possession of property obtained by crime.
Melchior’s trial, which began Monday, has heard that the RCMP border integrity monitoring centre spotted his small boat travelling with no lights, at high speed toward the Canada-U.S. border just before midnight on March 24, 2011.
An RCMP patrol boat caught up with Melchior, and officers spotted him throwing a small black suitcase into the ocean.
Cpl. Raj Sandhu and Const. Shawn Davey pulled the heavy suitcase into the boat and found it contained $2.6 million U.S. vacuum-sealed in plastic bags.
On Tuesday, RCMP Insp. John Ibbotson told the court that he believed the unusually large sum of money was headed to the U.S. for future drug transactions.
“Drugs are typically paid for in cash and U.S. currency is the currency of choice among international drug traffickers,” Ibbotson said.
Transporting money is covert and usually done at night, he testified.
It also carries significant risk for the courier. In this case, Melchior took a significant risk, driving a boat at high speed without lights.
Drugs or currency can be seized by the authorities, Ibbotson testified. The people involved can be prosecuted.
They can also be harmed if they lose the money or drugs. They may have to repay the loss, he said.
Court has also heard that a drug-sniffing dog detected narcotics on the bundles of cash found in the suitcase. This indicates the money had been close to drugs within a relatively short time, Ibbotson testified.
The cash also came from various sources, Ibbotson testified.
The number of well-used bills and $20 bills, which are often used to pay for drugs, indicate some of the money came from the street-level drug trade, he said.
The way it was packaged also indicates more than one person may have been involved, he said.
“It’s not always one person behind drug trafficking,” Ibbotson said.
“Sometimes different groups get together and pool funds. If they’re buying larger quantities, they get a discounted price.”
Earlier this week, the trial has heard evidence in three voir dires — trials within a trial — on Melchior’s right to counsel, the admissibility of his statement to RCMP officers on the boat that night and whether the seizure and analysis of his BlackBerry were legal.
Judge Ernie Quantz is expected to rule on those voir dires on April 8.
After that, the defence will decide whether to call evidence.
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