B.C. woman awaits sentencing in murder-for-hire plot
By Elaine O'Connor, Postmedia News - November 29, 2011
A Surrey woman could face seven years in jail for hiring undercover officers to kill a man and then agreeing to run drugs over the border in order to pay them.
Amarjit Kaur Lally, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of counselling to commit an offence in an earlier proceeding in June. She was initially charged with two counts, stemming from a series of meetings with undercover officers she believed were contract killers in the spring of 2010.
In her sentencing hearing in Surrey provincial court Tuesday, Judge Reg Harris heard that Lally, a mother of two, had also asked the undercover officers to kill her 70-year-old mother-in-law who was making her life miserable, on whom she had taken out a $20,000 life insurance policy.
Lally, wearing a bulky grey sweater with her hair in a ponytail, sat silently in court as she heard recorded evidence from her meetings with officers. But she broke down crying, unable to speak, under cross-examination late in the afternoon.
The hearing was concluded for the day and will resume on Jan. 9. Crown counsel Satinder Sidhu is seeking a sentence of five to seven years in prison, arguing that "this is a very serious offence" that warrants much more than a conditional sentence order.
"The accused blames everyone but herself for her predicament," Sidhu said.
The trouble began when Lally borrowed money from her former employer Gurcharan Singh Brar and his wife Harbans, the courtroom heard. Lally had worked in their furniture factory, D and G Furniture, for two years and maintained a friendship with Harbans. In March 2008, she borrowed a disputed sum of money (ranging from sums as low as $1,000 according to Lally or as high as $10,000 according to the Brars; there is no documentation) and never paid them back.
The Brars had made arrangements to collect $100 each month for every $1,000 owing, an exorbitant rate of interest that after one year would require a repayment of $31,380, defence counsel Russ Chamberlain said.
Lally told the officers she felt harassed by Brar and was unable to pay and concerned her family, particularly her husband, with whom she had a history of domestic abuse, would find out.
She approached a friend she met through her new job at a restaurant who had criminal ties and asked him for a contact with a contract killer. After repeated requests he told her he had some associates in California who might help her. He then informed an officer of her request and a six-week investigation of Lally began in February 2010 with the officers posing as the California associates.
Over a series of six meetings between February and April 2010, often in cars parked in big-box store lots, the court heard that Lally made repeated requests of the officers to kill Brar and then her mother-in-law. The officers initially asked for $10,000, but she claimed financial hardship and the price was eventually reduced to $5,000.
When she was unable to come up with that fee, the officers agreed to let her run drugs in exchange for the contract killing. They staged a shipment of five kilograms of cocaine on March 31, which she had loaded into the trunk her car and then delivered to one of the officers. After the drug run was done, Lally expressed a willingness to do more of this work in the future, the court heard.
She provided the officers with a description of Brar and the locations of his home and places of business. The officers played along and on the day they were to have killed Brar, told him of the scheme instead and got him to agree to pose for a picture with a faked bullet wound in his head, to convince Lally that he had been killed.
"Good, that's over with," Lally said upon seeing the grisly photo, the court heard her from recordings of the final meeting with Lally and the officers in the Sheraton Hotel in Surrey on April 1, just before she was arrested in the parking lot.
Under examination Tuesday Lally expressed regret over her reaction and attempt to kill Brar, leaving his wife and son bereft.
"You know I am sorry. I also have kids," she said through an interpreter. "What can I say?"
The Brars testified Tuesday that they had loaned Lally $10,000 and that she had offered to pay the high rate of interest. They said they believed she would repay them in a few months and denied having threatened her to return the money.
"We trusted her," Harbans said, explaining why there was no written contract. "No threats were made to her."
Brar said he was "scared" to learn of the contract on his life and told the court that he now feared going out at night and was nervous about attending large gatherings for fear something could happen to him.
"Scared, that's what I feel," he said through an interpreter. "That this doesn't happen again."
In court, Chamberlain painted a picture of a woman prone to depression who felt trapped in her life with an abusive and alcoholic husband and under pressure to her debtors. He said that Lally, who had a Grade 10 education, was raised in a family in India with an alcoholic father who beat her mother. Then, Lally herself married a husband who was a drinker and abused her, and had two sons with him.
Lally had one previous conviction for theft under $5,000 in 1996 and at least two episodes of depression, the court heard. And she had a troubled family life: she was reportedly asked to divorce her husband in 2001 so she could be married to one of his relatives in India to facilitate his immigration to Canada, only to have her husband secretly marry another woman in India and live with the secret for years. Under family pressure he later divorced his second wife and remarried Lally, only to assault her at her workplace in a police incident nine days after that second marriage.
Lally has been on bail since April 2010, subject to a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and required to live with her sister-in-law.
Another Surrey woman was recently found guilty of similar charges. Liza Joylene Belcourt, 34, and two co-accused were convicted of conspiring to murder Belcourt's ex-husband, a plot motivated by a protracted custody battle. The intended victim was not harmed
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