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August 6, 2004 - The Province (CN BC)

Accused B.C. Bud Smugglers Charged Under Terrorism Act

By Keith Fraser, The Province

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Five Canadians accused of smuggling B.C.-grown marijuana into the U.S. in exchange for more than $3.4 million US in cash have been charged under a controversial American law targeting terrorism.

The five are each charged with one count of "bulk cash smuggling," a provision of the U.S. Patriot Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ten others, residents of Washington state, are also charged under the new law.

The U.S. Attorney's office, rejecting calls that the act should be limited to cases involving terrorism, admits that none of the accused are believed to be terrorists.

But it says that in addition to attacking the international financing of terrorism, the provision regarding bulk cash smuggling grew out of a desire by Congress to target drug cartels and organized crime.

Jeffrey Steinborn, a Seattle lawyer for one of the accused Americans, said that long before the Patriot Act, the U.S. had plenty of laws making it unlawful to take more than $10,000 out of the country without declaring it.

"Our politicians sell us these [new] laws on the grounds that we need these extreme laws, these laws which really challenge civil liberties, because we're dealing with terrorists and [drug] kingpins," he said.

"So then we reluctantly give them these laws and who do they turn them on? A bunch of kids smuggling B.C. bud."

He said some of the accused are under 21 and his client is 27.

According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle last week, the accused men allegedly moved large amounts of cash from Washington state to several Lower Mainland communities, including Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver.

In one case, one of the accused men is alleged to have tried to smuggle $95,000 US into Canada at the Blaine crossing, concealing the money in packages wrapped around his torso and the torso of a passenger in his vehicle.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it has no strong position on the drug case, but it has objected to the act in general on the grounds that it may be misused for surveillance and wiretapping by authorities.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it is also concerned about the scope of the legislation and its potential for abuse of police powers but was not aware of the specifics of the drug case.

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