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More than 10 arrested as part of covert police op targeting drug network

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Police raids carried out throughout the city this week are related to a lengthy covert operation targeting a high-level drug cell piping cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy into Winnipeg from British Columbia and Ontario, the Free Press has learned.

Dubbed "Project Sideshow," the two-year-long probe saw police employ wiretaps, tracking devices, secret surveillance and clandestine video cameras to monitor the activities of the targeted cell, according to sources.

"They went all-out," said one justice source of the police effort. "It's a big investigation."

More than 10 arrests have been made so far in Winnipeg, B.C., and Ontario, with many being detained pending bail hearings in provincial court. Further arrests are pending, the source said.

The project does not appear to involve a paid police informant, which has been a frequently-used tactic by justice officials in major drug investigations in Manitoba in recent years.

So-called "sneak and peek" warrants form part of the case, said one source. The warrants allow police to enter buildings and other usually-private places to look around, document what they see and return at a later date.

That tactic was a major component of 2009's Project Sport Track, which focused on the kilogram-level cocaine-distribution activities taking place inside an abandoned Sargent Avenue warehouse. That operation saw a major B.C. cocaine pipeline into Manitoba disrupted.

Police have said in the past that they believe more than 500 kilograms of cocaine comes into the province each month.

Police have acknowledged the raids but have so far refused official comment on the investigation.

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