A Canadian man has been sentenced to 20 years in a U.S. federal prison for his role in a smuggling operation that sent more than $130 million worth of drugs between the United States and Canada.
Prosecutors had argued that Harinder Dhaliwal of Brampton, Ont., should spend 30 years behind bars for his role in the drug trafficking ring, while defence lawyers had argued for a lighter sentence.
Judge William Skretny of Buffalo, N.Y., handed the decision down on Wednesday, but did not elaborate on his reasoning.
Dhaliwal, who was arrested in Canada in 2014, was among a group of at least six other people indicted on charges related to distribution and exportation of large amounts of cocaine and marijuana between 2006 and 2011.
He was held in Canadian custody for nearly two years before being extradited to the U.S. to face charges in April 2016.
Weeks later, court documents show that Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to one of the eight charges against him, namely conspiracy to export at least five kilograms of cocaine from the U.S.
“As part of his plea agreement, the defendant admitted that during the course of the charged conspiracy, he was responsible for the transportation, exportation and distribution of more than 3,000 kilograms of cocaine … and the importation of tens of thousands of ecstasy pills and hundreds of pounds of marijuana,” prosecutors said in their pre-sentencing report.
Court documents said Dhaliwal owned trucking companies that he used to ferry drugs over the border concealed in hidden compartments that he built along with another co-conspirator.
A pre-sentencing report prepared by his defence team said he was lured into the easy money of drug trafficking because of financial hardships associated with failed business ventures.
The defence team, in arguing for a sentence that was “sufficient but not greater than necessary,” said he had been living in Canada for many years with his wife and two children at the time of his arrest.
Defence lawyers argued that Dhaliwal’s co-operation with authorities, poor health and remorse for his actions would justify a lighter sentence.
“Mr. Dhaliwal is extremely remorseful that he placed his needs for ‘quick money’ over the needs of society,” reads a pre-sentencing report from the defence team. “Mr. Dhaliwal accepts responsibility for his choices and his conduct. Mr. Dhaliwal acknowledges and appreciates the wrongfulness of his actions and offers no excuses or rational (sic) for his conduct.”
Defence lawyers asked the court to consider allowing Dhaliwal to serve his sentence in Canada, a request Skretny denied.
Dhaliwal was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. custody and five years of supervised release, though Skretny’s decision did say he is to be recommended for the Canadian Transfer Treaty Program.