Opium-laced rugs, raids on Maples-area homes part of $3.4 million Winnipeg drug bust

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Winnipeg police, working in coordination with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), have seized more than $3.4 million in heroin and opium, which they say was smuggled into the country in shipments of rugs. They also seized $500,000 in criminal proceeds, as part of an investigation that began last September.

Police said a total of 10 people have been arrested, totaling more than 40 drug-related offences, over two trafficking investigations.

Inspector Elton Hall with the Winnipeg Police Service said the CBSA alerted them in Sept. 2022 of packages headed for Winnipeg from Dubai via Toronto. The packages were sent to non-existent or vacant addresses.

“They don’t want it delivered to the house right away, I think they’re trying to test the waters to see if authorities are onto them,” Hall said.

When couriers could not deliver the packages, they took them to a warehouse, where a suspect attempted to pick them up. Investigators say he was turned away as the parcels had been flagged by authorities.

On Sept. 23, 2022, another shipment of rugs came to Winnipeg, this time addressed to a home in the Maples. Police did a controlled delivery of the rugs. Once the package was inside the home, police executed a search warrant and seized the rugs, $21,625 in cash, 227 grams of black tar heroin, and 20.8 grams of powdered heroin.

Hall says four rugs contained 9.6 kilograms of opium, worth 2 million dollars.

“There’s specific threads within a carpet that have the opium,” he said, “and there’s a chemical process to extract the opium once it enters into Canada.”

That process, he believes, isn’t as dangerous or obvious as processes to create drugs like methamphetamine.

“Looking into this myself, I know if you understand what you’re doing and you’re familiar with the process, this is something you can do on your own,” he said.

Jeryn Peters with the CBSA says this isn’t the first time traffickers have used this technique to bring drugs into Canada, adding they’d found similar smuggling attempts in the Greater Toronto Area.

“It’s not something that was new to us, we have seen it before,” she said.

A second investigation, also in the Maples, that began in December of 2022, led police to further heroin trafficking.

In the first week of February, police searched two homes, two vehicles and four financial institutions in Winnipeg and West St. Paul, leading to the arrest of seven people ad the seizure of seven more kilograms of heroin.

Police also confiscated $473,480 in cash, around $120,000 worth of gold jewelry, a BB gun, and drug trafficking materials.

Hall said this is the biggest heroin bust in recent memory, and that he believes traffickers intended to sell all the drugs seized in Winnipeg.

All of the accused in both cases are from Winnipeg and were released on an undertaking.

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