Observant customs officer thwarts gun smuggling attempt

Photo: Joe Fries/Penticton Herald

By JOE FRIES
Penticton Herald


If not for an extra-vigilant border guard, two restricted firearms may well have made it across the Canadian border south of Osoyoos earlier this year, a jury heard Wednesday in Penticton.

Officer Cecilia Christian of the Canada Border Services Agency told a gun-smuggling trial in B.C. Supreme Court how she was the acting superintendent on shift Feb. 1, 2017, at the Osoyoos port of entry when she helped a junior colleague search a car that was flagged for secondary inspection.

The 20-year veteran testified how she and the other officer each searched one side of the car from front to back, and in the trunk found what appeared to be a handgun magazine.

“It perked up my interest,” said Ms. Christian, who was suspicious enough to re-search the car.

After folding herself into the driver’s side wheel well, she then used her flashlight to inspect behind the dash board and noticed something near the radio that didn’t look right.

“Something just caught my eye, the glitter or something inside, and I realized it wasn’t part of the vehicle, but a plastic bag,” she explained.

 

Inside were two trigger locks with keys and instruction booklets, and nearby were two boxes of ammunition.

That was enough for Ms. Christian and her colleague to arrest the car’s driver, Senk’lip – who was charged as Alex Louie but is now referred to by the name of his choosing – on suspicion of smuggling and to undertake an even more thorough search.

The car was then pulled into a different inspection area with an open pit below – much like an oil-change shop – to allow a search of the undercarriage.

After her colleague gave the car’s underbody a look, Ms. Christian did the same, and as she got to the vehicle’s rear axle, she noticed something shiny hidden amongst the metal vehicle body.

“I was able to see through a tiny hole in the frame a little bit of plastic,” she recalled.

The little bit of plastic turned out to be two bags, each containing a handgun tied to the vehicle frame.

A spool containing wire similar to that used to tie the guns was located on the passenger seat of the car, she added, and a receipt for the same type of wire was found in the trunk.

During his cross-examination, Senk’lip, who’s self-represented, took no issue with the search, but rather focused his questions to Christian on an annual July 4 cross-border canoe trek.

Senk’lip said he and other Indigenous people paddle across the Canada-U.S. border at Osoyoos Lake for a celebration near Oroville without any interference from customs agents.

He suggested the event is staged “to establish a right of passage or the right to travel freely” across the border as Indigenous people, but Christian was unable to confirm that, having only seen an email warning of increased traffic during the event.

Senk’lip is charged with nine offences under the Criminal Code and Customs Act.

His trial began Monday and is expected to last through Friday.

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