Two Abbotsford men who were arrested after police seized more than 40 kilograms of cocaine in a berry field near the Canada-U.S. border have each been sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
Randeep Singh Match, 30, and Manindervir Singh Virk, 24, were arrested in September 2009 after a police helicopter spotted three people in a berry field just north of Zero Avenue and west of Mt. Lehman Road, on the Canadian side.
A police dog tracked two men heading north and found four bags containing the cocaine having a value of up to $2 million.
Match and Virk were found hidden in some nearby bushes.
At trial, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brian Joyce found the pair guilty of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
There was no direct evidence that Match and Virk carried the drugs across the border or that the drugs were transported by somebody else across the border.
The prosecution argued that the drugs must have been imported from the U.S. and that Match and Virk must have been involved, whether they were the actual importers or not.
The judge concluded that, while the cocaine was obviously imported into Canada, no doubt from the U.S., he could not be sure the two men were involved.
"I cannot find, therefore, beyond a reasonable doubt, that importation is an aggravating circumstance in this case as against the two offenders."
Virk, 24, a construction sub-contractor who has three prior convictions for assault, received a 5 1/2 year jail term but had his sentence reduced a year after getting credit for pre-sentence custody.
Match, 30, who was employed installing carpets, was also sentenced to 5 1/2 years.
Virk received a lifetime prohibition from possessing weapons and Match got a 10-year weapons ban.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of eight years in prison for the two men while the defence had argued for five years.
? The judge handed down the sentences orally on Sept. 5 but the written ruling was released Wednesday.