The criminal case against two men accused in Manitoba's largest-ever ecstasy bust has quietly collapsed, apparently due to major delays in getting the case to trial.
Dalip Judge, 36, of Surrey B.C., and Paramjit Gill, 37, of Delta B.C., learned recently federal prosecutors dropped the serious drug-trafficking charges they faced in connection with the seizure of 65 kilograms of ecstasy powder following a July 26, 2009, traffic stop near Headingley.
The drugs, if processed and distributed, could have been worth as much as $6.5 million on the street, police said, adding an estimated 650,000 tablets of ecstasy could have been produced from the quantity seized.
The Crown gave no reason for its decision to stay charges against the men. Charges are stayed when prosecutors conclude there's either no reasonable likelihood of conviction or the prosecution isn't in the public interest.
They have a year to revive the case, but given major concerns over the delay in bringing it to trial, that's unlikely to happen.
Defence lawyers expected to be in court Thursday to argue the case should be tossed because of the delay in getting it heard and decided.
That the Crown didn't elect to challenge this appears to be a signal, Judge's defence lawyer, Sheldon Pinx, said in a brief interview.
Trial dates in the Court of Queen's Bench were set for September of this year, meaning it would have taken more than five years to resolve the case, lawyers Pinx and Evan Roitenberg state in court records obtained by the Free Press.
The standard for federal prosecutors is to have drug cases settled within two years, possibly a bit longer depending on its complexity, a federal justice source said Thursday.
More than five years was clearly an unreasonable amount of time for Gill and Judge to have the charges hanging over their heads, Pinx and Roitenberg were set to argue.
According to a breakdown of how the case proceeded, it took until May 22, 2013, to hold a one-day preliminary hearing in provincial court.
The date for the hearing was reset three times after the Crown provided "last minute" disclosure of documents and a police officer central to the investigation was unavailable to testify, the lawyers said.
The police investigation stemmed from a traffic stop and was not a lengthy one, they said, adding it's up to the Crown to ensure the case moves forward in a timely way. Both men signalled at their arrests they planned to fight the charges, their lawyers said.
"All of the delay lies at the feet of the state," they said. All this time, the stresses of being accused and on bail were hanging over Gill and Judge, said Pinx and Roitenberg.
"Their futures have remained quite uncertain," they said.
A restoration order was signed in court Jan. 8 allowing Gill and Judge to reclaim a Kenworth semi-trailer registered to a company called Breezer Transport.
The vehicle was seized and held by police after they arrested the men at Portage Avenue and the Perimeter Highway.
They spent several nights in custody at the remand centre before the Crown consented to release them on significant cash bonds of $80,000 each and restrictive bail conditions.