Kuldeep Singh Dharni, accused of smuggling 100 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $10 million, was acquitted Friday of all charges.
Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey even expressed sympathy that the 39-year-old Brampton trucker had to undergo such legal troubles since he was arrested three years ago when customs officers made the second-largest ever cocaine bust at the Ambassador Bridge.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Carey told Dharni after delivering his ruling. “And I’m sorry this ordeal was visited upon you.”
Customs officers found 100 bricks of coke in Dharni’s truck, hidden among aluminium coils picked up in Indiana, as he attempted to cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada around 8:30 p.m., Aug. 10, 2009.
Dharni maintained that he had no idea cocaine was hidden in his truck, though federal prosecutor Richard Pollock argued that the accused knew full well.
Carey found Dharni’s evidence to be honest and forthright, and suggested that the owner of the truck, not Dharni who drove it, orchestrated the crime — which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Carey felt the owner of the company, on the other hand, seemed dishonest on the stand. Carey thought that the company owner, who directed Dharni to a busy truck stop to wait while paperwork was allegedly processed, could have had cocaine planted in bags on the unsealed truck then. Carey also noted that two sets of footprints on the aluminium coils did not match Dharni’s.
“I do believe your evidence,” Carey told Dharni. “It was clear and uncontradicted by any other evidence. It did not sound practised or rehearsed and it made sense.
“The cross examination, in my view, enhanced your credibility. There is no criminal record alleged and I accept you, Mr. Dharni, as a person of good character.”
Dharni, wearing dress pants and a cream-coloured wind-breaker, wiped his eyes after Carey declared him free to go.
Outside court Dharni, who listened to the two-week trial with the help of Punjabi interpreters, expressed relief with the decision and thanked his lawyer Patrick Ducharme.
“The feeling is good,” said the smiling Indian-born Dharni, who listened to the trial through Punjabi interpreters. “It’s not my wrong.”
Ducharme said he will seek a quick return of his client’s passport from the police, so that Dharni can return to his wife and 2 1/2-year-old son in Brampton and soon resume his trucking career.
“It was a good decision,” said Ducharme, noting that Dharni has been living under strict bail conditions for more than three years. “He has been as resoundingly acquitted as I’ve heard in many years.
“He’ll carry on and hopefully this will just be a bad, distant memory some day.”