A 49-year-old construction contractor has been sentenced to eight years in prison after he tried to smuggle $1.5 million worth of methamphetamine into the country on Canada Day, 2014.
Rajkumar Subramaniam was likely motivated by money when he attempted to cross the border with nearly 15 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed inside a hidden compartment in his SUV, said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Saunders, before handing down his sentence in New Westminster last month.
Subramaniam was convicted by a jury on Oct. 17, 2019, of one count of importing methamphetamine and one count of possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking.
The decision came five years after Subramaniam was stopped by Canada Border Service officers on July 1, 2014, while attempting to cross into B.C. from Washington State.
According to court documents, Subramaniam had crossed into the U.S. several hours earlier the same day and was exhibiting behaviour on his return crossing – appearing nervous and giving a confused account of his activities while in the U.S. – that led officers to refer him to secondary screening.
A search of his vehicle turned up 14.79 kilograms of methamphetamine inside 33 individually wrapped packages. The drugs were discovered in plastic containers, some of which were marked “Made in Mexico” in Spanish, concealed inside an elaborate compartment installed in the rear seat fold-down well.
The vehicle also contained a complex system of aftermarket electronic components, including a GPS locator device.
The drugs, found to be between 98 and 100 per cent pure, “had a wholesale value of approximately $375,000. On the street, the shipment would yield approximately 150,000 individual doses, with an approximate value of $1.5 million dollars,” the court document reads.
“The amount of drugs, the steps taken to conceal them, and the fact that the hidden GPS locator device in the vehicle was remotely activated while Mr. Subramaniam was in detention, all point to him having been part of a sophisticated scheme with considerable planning and deliberation,” Saunders noted as he prepared to read his sentence.
“There is no explanation put forward for Mr. Subramaniam having committed this act. The only reasonable inference is that he did it for money.”
On Oct. 19, Saunders sentenced Subramaniam to eight years on a single count of importation, and a further six years on the count of possession for the purpose of trafficking. The terms are to be served concurrently.
Subramaniam was also handed a 10-year ban on possessing weapons and ordered to provide a DNA sample.
The Crown sought a sentence of nine years, while Subramaniam’s counsel suggested four-and-a-half to seven years would be appropriate.
“The Crown submits that there are no mitigating factors present. I have to agree,” said Saunders.
“Counsel for Mr. Subramaniam submits that his age, and his years of pro-social activity should count towards mitigation. But … this was not an impulsive crime committed by a young person lacking the judgment necessary to avoid risky or anti-social behaviour. Mr. Subramaniam was old enough to know better.”
Following his conviction, Subramaniam’s sentencing took more than a year to be carried out. It was delayed by a number of factors, noted Saunders, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, air-quality concerns following the fire at the New Westminster pier, failure to book a Tamil interpreter and a medical emergency suffered by Mr. Subramaniam, which necessitated surgery.
Born in Sri Lanka, Subramaniam immigrated to Canada in 1971, initially living in Toronto.
“He had two brushes with the law when in his mid-twenties …. He then moved here to British Columbia, and by all accounts has been an industrious and contributing member of society,” the judge’s decision reads.
Subramaniam has worked in the past as a hotel night manager and was co-owner of a restaurant. Currently, he and his partner operate several construction contracting companies, and have interests in a business that distributes Tamil language films.
The father of two teenage boys, Subramaniam and his partner are currently expecting another child.
While the court received numerous letters of support from friends and family members attesting to Subramaniam’s kindness and compassion, and his strong work ethic, Saunders noted this is offset by the hardships created by the drugs he attempted to bring into the country.
“The severe harm that (methamphetamine) does to users and the havoc that addiction visits on their families are two aspects of the consequences of importing and trafficking,” said Saunders.
“Those addicted to stimulants such as methamphetamine will also commit impulsive crimes due to their inhibitions being suppressed. And further, those who profit from the sale of drugs can and do commit terrible crimes of violence … as they seek to maintain and expand their markets.
“Seen in this light, contributing to the drug trade, even through acting in a more passive role as a courier or importer, is a profoundly antisocial act.”