10 Albertans facing 139 charges in fentanyl superlab bust near Calgary, says ALERT

Ten people mostly from Edmonton and Okotoks, Alta., are facing 139 charges after a fentanyl superlab was shut down south of Calgary last July, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) said in a release on Wednesday.

Police said they found 31 kilograms of fentanyl and 7,600 kilograms of the chemicals used to make a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The total street value of the operation, titled Project Essence, was pegged at about $300 million.

Paperwork, Crown counsel disclosure and lab analysis by Health Canada meant charges were delayed until this month.

That delay, however, doesn’t surprise a Mount Royal University professor of justice studies.

“I think that all makes sense,” Doug King told CBC News in an interview.

“Charges will not be laid until the police know that they can fit things within that 30-month ‘Jordan’ window. This was a large group of people so, as law enforcement, you would probably be trying to get one or two of them to flip to provide evidence against others. So it is kind of like peeling an onion. You want to get as many people as you can to the core of things.”

Jordan is a Supreme Court of Canada decision from 2016 that effectively lays out a right to be tried within a reasonable time, which has been set at 30 months from the charges to end of the court case.

Largest reported seizure in North America

What was initially thought to be 10.5 kilograms of a synthetic opioid turned out to be isotonitazene, which is even more potent than fentanyl. This operation is believed to be the largest reported seizure of isotonitazene in North America, the agency said.

Charges against the 10 Albertans include criminal conspiracy.

The lab was in Aldersyde, about 45 kilometres southeast of Calgary. The investigation began in February last year.

The Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, RCMP and clandestine laboratory response teams were involved in the operation.

It cost $75,000 to safely dispose of the chemicals.

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