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Federal drug unit probe in South Surrey part of ‘major’ B.C.-wide synthetic-opioid bust

Search warrant executed March 1 was among 11 executed across B.C.

A search warrant that brought the Mounties’ Federal Clandestine Laboratory Team to South Surrey earlier this month was part of a major organized-crime investigation that spanned national boundaries.

Thursday (March 16), officials with the Federal Serious and Organized Crime announced four arrests and the seizure of millions of doses of potentially toxic drugs and precursor chemicals, in connection with warrants executed in five Lower Mainland cities.

READ MORE: Federal drug unit targets South Surrey home in bust spanning Lower Mainland

Monday (March 20), Staff Sgt. Kris Clark confirmed that police activity at a home near 134 Street and 26 Avenue in South Surrey on March 1 was part of that investigation.

While a news tip sent to Black Press Media reported that one person was seen arrested at the targeted South Surrey home, Clark would not disclose where any of the four arrests – one of which was described as a “Provincial Targeting Enforcement Priority” for his alleged involvement in the ongoing violent gang conflict in Metro Vancouver – took place, nor would he share what police found at the scene.

“I am not at liberty to detail any arrests or seizures as they relate to specific locations at this time,” Clark told Peace Arch News by email.

According to a news release, a total of 11 search warrants were executed simultaneously across Vancouver, North Vancouver, Delta, Richmond and Surrey in connection with the investigation.

The seizures resulted in “significant seizures of various types of finished pills and pressed tablets, three firearms, cash, electronic devices, significant quantities of precursor chemicals, and multi-kilograms of other illicit substances,” the release states.

“Located at one of the sites was a significantly advanced pill pressing operation capable of producing approximately 60,000 pills per hour when in full operation. Although a large number of additional seized exhibits are still being processed, current estimates put the total quantity of pills seized to be in excess of one million tablets.”

The operation began in September 2022 and “quickly revealed that several individuals” were involved in the ongoing B.C. gang conflict, the release continues.

Other agencies involved in the operation included FSOC’s Major Projects and Border Integrity teams; the BC RCMP Lower Mainland District Emergency Response Team; Surrey, North Vancouver, and Richmond RCMP; Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Emergency Response Team; VPD; and the BC RCMP Legal Applications Support Team.

“The indisputable timeliness of this enforcement action comes in the midst of a continuing public health emergency, which is in large part precipitated by the toxic supply of fentanyl that fuels the ongoing opioids crisis,” FSOC Major Projects’ acting Supt. Jillian Wellard said in the release.

“The significant amount of illicit drugs seized, as well as the dismantling of this criminal network and their sophisticated pill-pressing operation has prevented millions of potentially lethal doses of toxic drugs from entering our communities.”

READ ALSO: Chief coroner prescribes ‘urgency’ as B.C. records 2,272 toxic drug deaths in 2022

According to the latest report from the BC Coroners Service, the toxic-drug supply claimed the lives of at least 211 people in January – around seven people per day – marking the eighth time in the past 16 months that the death toll has surpassed 200.

The bust was one of two separate investigations that resulted in a total of six arrests.

READ MORE: RCMP arrest 6, seize fentanyl-producing chemicals in 2 B.C. drug busts

The second – a 22-month-long investigation that also included a search in Surrey – resulted in the arrest of one man and one woman for their alleged involvement in importing chemicals required to make illicit drugs. Police seized 600 kilograms of a fentanyl precursor valued at $600,000, and 200 kilograms of an MDMA precursor valued at $120,000.

It’s estimated the quantities could have produced 262 million doses of fentanyl and three million doses of MDMA.

Police also seized three high-end vehicles, two luxury watches, electronic goods, cash and cannabis.

While both investigations are ongoing, police believe the recent enforcement actions “undoubtedly caused a major blow to the organized crime groups involved.”

-files from Jane Skrypnek, Black Press Media
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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