Jury urged to find German man guilty of trying to smuggle opium through YVR
Scales of Justice statue at BC Supreme Court in Vancouver, BC Thursday, May 5, 2016. (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG)
A prosecutor urged a jury Thursday to convict a German man accused of attempting to smuggle six kilograms of opium in two suitcases through the Vancouver International Airport.
Court heard that Erol Ureten, 49, was arrested after he flew from Hamburg, Germany to Vancouver on Jan. 11, 2016.
When customs officials searched two suitcases being brought into the country by Ureten and a man he identified as his stepdaughter's boyfriend, they found the drugs, valued at $300,000, hidden in secret compartments.
At trial, Ureten pleaded not guilty to one count of importing a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
The main issue at trial was whether or not Ureten, who testified that he thought he was bringing designer clothing into the country, was aware that drugs were in the suitcases.
He claimed that a stranger that he only identified as Olaf had approached him in Germany and offered to pay him to carry a suitcase carrying the designer clothing to Canada.
In final submissions to the B.C. Supreme Court jury on Thursday, Ureten's lawyer Mark Swartz argued that his client was an "unsophisticated blind courier, an unknowing dupe."
"He was someone who could be financially exploited," said Swartz. "He was naive. He could easily be manipulated into believing untruths."
He said there was no evidence to prove that Ureten, who was employed as a trucker in Germany, had any way of knowing there were drugs in the suitcases.
"The Crown's case is woefully inadequate and they have not proven Mr. Ureten's guilty beyond a reasonable doubt … When assessing the evidence, no evidence points to actual knowledge" of the drugs.
But Crown counsel Kendra Torvik told the jury that the case was about a man who intentionally imported opium into Canada and intended to pass the drugs to other individuals or a group.
"The Crown's theory of the case is that Mr. Ureten knew that there was drugs in the bags or at a minimum he suspected there was and he didn't want to know."
Torvik said Ureten planned a 10-day trip to Canada with the stepdaughter's boyfriend as a ruse or a scam to avoid the scrutiny that he might have received had he arrived alone at customs with two large bags for one man for a short trip.
The prosecutor said that although Ureten testified he didn't know about the drugs, his story wasn't plausible.
"It isn't believable and it doesn't accord with life experience," she said. "Your common sense should tell you: When does one accidentally come into possession of a commodity valued at $300,000?"
Trovik said the accused's own testimony showed he was suspicious that there were drugs in the suitcases but that he didn't take any steps to find out whether that was actually the case.
She pointed to the "pretty mysterious figure" of Olaf, a man who didn't reveal his last name, had no business cards and couldn't say whether he had an office or a website.
After final submissions from the lawyers, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lance Bernard charged the jury and the jury began deliberations.