Sitting in front of a giant wall of seized cocaine, officers with the Ontario Provincial Police announced on Monday the force had carried out its largest ever drug bust, netting 1,062 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $250 million.
The investigation, dubbed Project Hope, followed cocaine being sent in containers from Argentina to Montreal. Police eventually found stashes of cocaine sitting in a government warehouse, the Port of Montreal, and in Stoney Creek, Ontario.
Three men were arrested and charged with importing the cocaine.
The three were originally picked up in May, when police pulled over a pickup truck driving north from Brampton, just outside Toronto. Police reported that they found 142 kilograms of cocaine in the back of the pickup truck.
Those arrests appear to have helped the Ontario police — working with the Canadian Border Services Agency, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and other agencies — to uncover the international trafficking effort.
Images released by the provincial police show hollowed-out bricks, labelled with pictures of dogs and cartoon characters, that were used to smuggle the cocaine.
“We have made a difference,” Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum told reporters at a press conference as he held up a number of plastic bags with varying amounts of decoy cocaine.
Barnum explained that the seized cocaine would have likely been cut with fillers and other cutting agents such as fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that’s been linked skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths across North America in recent years.
The officers did not provide further details of how the investigation was conducted, adding it’s still ongoing.
Police forces across Canada have ramped up efforts to curb the importation and distribution of illicit substances in the wake of the opioid crisis.
In July, the Edmonton Police announced what it described as the largest fentanyl pill bust in Canadian history that yielded 130,000 pills. Criminal charges have yet to be announced in that investigation.
Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police inked a deal with counterparts in China to work together to combat the exportation of potent illicit opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil from China into Canada.