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Canada Canadian Flight Attendant Handed 8-Year Prison Term For Drug-Smuggling

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Canadian Flight Attendant Handed 8-Year Prison Term For Drug-Smuggling
By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News - December 20, 2010 2:11 PM

Air Canada flight attendant Mandeep Shahi of Mississauga, Ont.
Photograph by: Metropolitan Police Service, London, Photo Handout

An Air Canada flight attendant from Ontario, blasted by British authorities for the "corrupt" abuse of her position to skirt airport security in Canada and the U.K., has been sentenced to eight years in prison for smuggling about $400,000 worth of cocaine from Canada to Europe through Pearson and Heathrow airports.

Mandeep Shahi, a 27-year-old airline hostess from the Toronto-area suburb of Mississauga, was arrested at London's main airport in August after New Scotland Yard detectives linked her to an illicit drug network that was dealing imported cocaine and marijuana on the streets of the British capital.

"This was a significant volume of dangerous class A and B drugs clearly being imported with a view to selling on the London market," Det.-Insp. Sarah Staff of the city's Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement following Shahi's sentencing. "Shahi abused her position as a member of cabin crew and is now facing the consequences of her corruption."

According to British media, a tearful Shahi testified in court that she had no knowledge of the four kilograms of cocaine transported in her bags in March.

But investigators used closed-circuit TV footage from a London hotel to connect the Air Canada flight attendant to three British men who had been under surveillance for months for suspected drug-dealing.

Shahi, according to U.K. police, was seen on the hotel security video on March 26 — following the arrival of a flight from Canada — delivering a blue travel bag to a room occupied by Baljinder Nijjar, a 28-year-old London resident with family links to the Canadian woman.

According to other video and witness evidence recounted in the Metropolitan Police statement, Nijjar passed the "drugs-laden" travel bag to a co-conspirator, 28-year-old Simon Howard-Harwood, at the same hotel.

He, in turn, gave the bag to 53-year-old London cab driver Ghulem Malik. The man described as the network's "courier" was then stopped and arrested by detectives, who found a kilogram of cocaine in the same bag Shahi had first brought to the hotel.

A subsequent search of Howard-Harwood's hotel room turned up three more kilograms of the drug. And further evidence led to a 25-kg stash of marijuana — worth an estimated $240,000 — at another London address.

While the three men were arrested and charged in March, police didn't nab Shahi until she returned to London five months later on a flight from Canada.

"On (Aug. 2) Shahi was arrested returning to the U.K., again in her capacity as cabin crew," the police statement said. "She was interviewed and charged. Subsequent searches of her luggage revealed that she had smuggled in a small amount of cannabis."

All four of those involved in the smuggling scheme have now been convicted and sentenced. Along with Shahi's eight-year prison term for transporting drugs, Nijjar was sentenced to 12 years as the operation's pointman. Howard-Harwood faces a nine-year sentence and Malik was given a three-year jail term.

Responding to an inquiry from Postmedia News on Monday about the potential security implications of the Shahi case, an Air Canada spokesperson referred airport-related questions to Transport Canada.

"The individual is no longer employed by Air Canada," said airline spokesperson Angela Mah. "All employees undergo security background checks before being hired, and operational personnel get additional checks by Transport Canada because they work in restricted areas."

Such checks "did occur in this case," Mah stated, and "no anomalies arose."

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

source: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Canadian+flight+attendant+handed+year+prison+term+drug+smuggling/4004888/story.html?cid=megadrop_story


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