In a notable undertaking termed as Project Doom, initiated nearly a year ago following suspicions raised by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, it was found that a man from Winnipeg was allegedly engaged in trafficking illicit drugs into remote First Nations communities, and attempting to whitewash the substantially large generated proceeds through casino games in the city.
The investigative team alleged that the individual was smuggling drugs into remote communities, receiving payment, and then laundering the money via casino gaming. The man under scrutiny would supposedly bring substantial amounts of cash into the casinos, exchange them for chips, and then cash out the chips, in an attempt to obliterate links to criminal activities, as per Tara Seel, a media relations officer at Manitoba RCMP.
The actual sum believed to have undergone money laundering remains undisclosed, however Seel affirmed it was a considerable amount.
Mohammad Riyadul Hoque, a 30-year old Winnipeg citizen was arrested on September 19, charged with trafficking fentanyl and cocaine, money laundering, and possession of crime proceeds. Following his arrest, Hoque was released on a $50,000 bail the next day, subject to several conditions including a strict curfew and a prohibition to visit any casino, racetrack or bar operating VLTs.
Subsequent searches in Hoque’s residence led to the discovery of cash, various drugs, and resulted in the confiscation of two vehicles, 498 grams of crack cocaine, 882 counterfeit OxyContin tablets, 241 Percocet tablets, 26 gabapentin tablets, and 348 unidentified tablets.
The allegations against Hoque, who is expected to stand trial for his trafficking charges in the coming week, are yet to be substantiated in court.
In the wake of such incidents and the ongoing drug crisis, communities including Red Sucker Lake, Garden Hill, Island Lake, St. Theresa Point, and North Spirit Lake in Ontario, have been implicated.
Elvin Flett, St. Theresa Point Chief, confirmed the increasing drug menace in his community and its negative social impact on those suffering from addiction and their families, pointing out that these drugs are primarily transported via the local airport.
In response to this critical situation, earlier this year Flett appealed for assistance from federal and provincial authorities to curb drug trafficking. While admitting that one arrest was merely ‘a drop in the bucket’, Seel emphasized on the significance of every drug confiscation, stating it’s potential to save lives by disrupting the drug supply chain.
Seel also encouraged Manitobans to notify police authorities of any suspicious activities or suspected drug dealing, in the hope that this information might prove crucial in piecing together a wider investigation and battling province-wide drug issues.