Convicted cocaine smuggler, and Richmond businessman, Shminder Johal was not the leader of a sophisticated cross-border smuggling ring and should serve no more than 15 years in jail, his lawyer argued Tuesday.
Danny Markovitz said it would be unfair to impose a term of 20 years on Johal, 38, as prosecutor James Torrance urged Justice Selwyn Romilly to do.
"It would ruin the lives of his children, his wife, his parents," Markovitz told B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Romilly convicted Johal and former Canada Services Border Agency guard Baljinder Kandola of importing more than 200 kilograms of cocaine back in 2007 and being part of a smuggling conspiracy that involved other shipments.
Torrance argued for a sentence at "the upper end of the range" given the scale and sophistication of the operation and that it involved compromising the border.
But Markovitz said previous importing sentences in B.C. have fallen in the six to 10-year range. And he said it wouldn't be fair to go as high as the Crown suggested for his client, a Richmondite with a limousine company.
He argued for a term of between 12 and 15 years instead.
"There is someone obviously higher up than Mr. Johal," Markovitz said. "Clearly Mr. Johal was not near the top of the organization."
Markovitz said that while cocaine addiction is a serious social problem, "keep in mind that virtually always, the purchases are voluntary."
His client was not "pushing it down" someone's throat, he said.
He cited numerous reference letters provided for Johal that portray him as a dedicated family man who had no criminal record until Romilly convicted him on June 29th on several counts.
On top of conspiracy and importation of cocaine, Johal was found guilty of bribing Kandola, as well as importing firearms.
Markovitz also urged Romilly not to order the forfeiture of $223,880 of cash found in Johal's house after his October 2007 arrest, saying there was no proof the cash had come from drug sales.
Johal testified at trial that the cash came from selling cars to gangsters who preferred to pay cash for their purchases.
"The evidence from Johal as to how he came into possession of this large sum of cash is ludicrous," Romilly said in his ruling. "I have great difficulty accepting this evidence. I find that there is an irresistible inference that this large amount of cash came from the sale of drugs and not from the sale of cars."
Romilly reserved his ruling on the sentences until Friday, when both Johal and Kandola will be taken into custody.
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