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Indo-British Millionaire Busted In Drugs Sent In Tombstone From Vancouver
( Mar 19 2009 )

Observer News Service


An Indo-British millionaire was busted after Canadian authorities found cocaine hidden in hollowed-out gravestones that was destined to his Scotland-based liquor distribution business.

Ramandeep Johal had a memorial inscribed with the name of a fake dead Scots pensioner in a bid to fool customs men. We can reveal his deadly plan was smashed when Canadian Mounties detected traces of coke on the two-foot headstone for 70-year-old "Loving father & husband" Albert Thomas.

The stone - which even had its own sentimental poem called Wings Of The Angels - was made of wood laminate and had been painted to make it look like stone.

It contained 8937 grammes of cocaine, which was 53 per cent pure and had an estimated street value of around $750,000.

Married dad-of-one Johal, of Renfrewshire, was a director of drinks distribution firm Barrell's & Booze.

But he admitted being involved in supplying cocaine at Glasgow's High Court last week.

He faces years in jail when sentenced next month.

In a special investigation we followed the cocaine trail from the drug barons who control its supply from abroad to the users who pay s2 for a line on the streets of Scotland.

One former associate of Johal said: "He was really slick and believed he was untouchable.

"He thought he had all the bases covered and believed headstones were the perfect scam.

"He was well known in the drinks trade throughout Scotland and was outwardly a very respectable guy."

Canadian investigators intercepted a 'heavy box' which had been posted in British Columbia, addressed to an 'S Adams' but bound for 31-year-old Johal's drinks warehouse in Hillington, Renfrewshire.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called in after border control agents in the country became suspicious of the package and a scan showed traces of cocaine.

Inside they found the memorial, which colleagues smashed open to reveal the drugs cargo. While Johal waited back in Scotland for the package to arrive, Canadian Mounties, British Customs and Strathclyde Police put together an elaborate sting.

The Mounties sent the headstone to Scotland where Strathclyde officers swapped it for a fake.

A detective posing as a delivery driver took the replacement package to Johal's drinks warehouse on June 20 last year.

Unsuspecting Johal signed for the box, prompting a full-scale police raid on the premises during which the shamed businessman tried to claim 'S Adams' was a former employee.

Johal protested he had been threatened by a cousin in Canada who forced him to receive the drugs.

He told police: "I didn't do it of my own free will. Please make sure my family is OK."

"He claims a cousin in Canada asked him to do this but we have never been able to find any such cousin.

"You would think he would be able to give us a name or location or a way to contact his cousin but he has not been able to give us that information. So we've reached a dead end on that."

Johal also stands to see any remaining assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime act although his once-successful business has now gone bust and his home is about to be repossessed.

Canada Border Services Agency Pacific Regional Director Blake Delgaty said: "This seizure demonstrates our partnership with law enforcement agencies, both here and abroad, lead to great success.

"These joint operations ensure the security of our borders and play a big part in making our communities safer."

The cocaine epidemic gripping Scotland was underlined in December when it emerged the number of people treated in hospital for abusing cocaine has increased tenfold in the past decade.

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