MONTREAL, Feb. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - The members of the Marihuana Grow Operations Enforcement Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concluded their first major operation when they uncovered a Montreal based criminal organization involved in the trafficking, importation and exportation of cannabis seeds, as well as in conspiring for the purpose of cannabis cultivation via the Internet. This operation was launched in November 2004 under the name "Courriel" and culminated with the seizure of 200,000 cannabis seeds and the arrest of seven persons.

Project "Courriel" revealed that Richard Hratch BAGHDADLIAN, 38, from Marsan Street in Montreal, and six other persons operated the Heaven's Stairway company. This company was on the web claiming to be the North American supplier for indoor and outdoor cannabis production.

The cybercompany Heaven's Stairway used the Internet sites hempqc.com, cannabisworld.com, overgrow.com, eurohemp.com, cannabisseeds.com, and cannabisbay.com. These sites were used to order cannabis seeds online and obtain information on cannabis cultivation. These Internet sites also suggested ways to outsmart the police.

Richard Hratch BAGHDADLIAN was the instigator, head and main beneficiary of the illicit company Heaven's Straiway. The other six accused acted as couriers and performed other duties for the company. They are Geoffrey CHAN, 33, Maria Cristina CIVITILLO, 32, Natalie BAGHDADLIAN, 40, Manuel Bento FERNANDES, 45, Christopher ALMOND, 38, and Teresa RODRIGUES, 39. They all live in Montreal except Christopher ALMOND who lives in Ville Saint-Laurent.

The organization processed approximately 30 orders of cannabis seeds a
day averaging $100 each. The seeds were sent to clients by regular mail.

The seven people are facing 49 charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. The offences were committed in Quebec, Canada, North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world between March 12, 1998 and January 31, 2006.

Nine searches were carried out during the week of January 30, 2006 in order to gather evidence that criminal activities had been committed. The searches were conducted in Montreal and Laval, as well as in the residences of three of the accused, a business, three post office boxes, a vehicle and a safe-deposit box.

These searches led to the seizure of 200,000 cannabis seeds, more than $183,362 in US currencies and $14,000 in Canadian currencies, both in cash and postal money orders, three one-kilogram gold bricks, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Mazda RX8 and many purchase orders. Since the searches were conducted, 272 orders have been intercepted by the police.

The amount of seeds seized during the searches could have made it possible to operate approximately 500 cannabis greenhouses of 400 plants each, which represent 42 million joints sold on the street.

The seven accused are liable to 10 years' imprisonment. Since the possession of cannabis seeds is illegal under Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, clients of the network could also receive a visit from the police.

It should be noted that Project "Courriel", a first in Canada, is the fruit of the work of the new Marihuana Grow Operations Enforcement Team. This new drug enforcement team is one of the seven teams established by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police across Canada in 2004 to combat the scourge of marihuana. The main objectives of these teams are to interdict drugs before they arrive in our communities and to target and destroy the infrastructure and the networks used by criminal organizations involved in marihuana production. These organizations constitute a threat to public safety and well-being.

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