Province's top court upholds 8-year sentences given 2 fentanyl couriers headed to Regina

The courts have described fentanyl as 'the best killing drug on the market.' (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has upheld eight-year prison sentences handed two couriers caught moving a shipment of fentanyl to Regina from Calgary in 2019.

Emile Laird and Christian Mukele, both in their mid-30s, were convicted Dec. 19, 2022 in Swift Current provincial court. They appealed, disputing their warrantless arrest on the Trans-Canada, the length of time between their charges and conviction, and that "the sentences imposed against them were demonstrably unfit."

The appeal court decision detailed the facts of the case.

"The drugs trafficked by Mr. Mukele and Mr. Laird have the ability to kill a user each time a dose is taken, being the potential to kill … 3,100 or 12,400 friends, fathers, mothers, children and grandchildren," Justice Jeffery Kalmakoff wrote, quoting the trial judge.

"The trial judge expressly rejected Mr. Mukele's submission that his status as a mere courier was something that should be seen as reducing the degree of his responsibility. In that regard he observed that 'being a simple courier does not diminish culpability in a crime,' and that couriers are 'an integral part of the drug trade' because 'drugs do not get to street-level users and sellers without the necessary transportation.'"

The pair attracted the attention of RCMP when officers saw the rented car "travelling substantially below the speed limit at one point, above the speed limit another, initially pulling over in the left-hand driving lane of a divided highway, and then bringing the vehicle to a stop awkwardly on the correct side of the highway."

The car smelled of burned cannabis and both men acted in such a way as to arouse the suspicion of the officers.

A search revealed a black plastic shopping bag with 310 grams of fentanyl, separated into 11 baggies that each contained approximately one ounce or 28.4 grams.

Police also discovered five cell phones and 15 grams of marijuana in the car.

Mukele was found to have a small amount of cocaine in his pocket, and he and Laird each were carrying more than $1,000 in cash.

At sentencing, the men argued that they were merely unsophisticated couriers and that a sentence in the range of three to four years would be appropriate in their respective circumstances.

The high court rejected all grounds of the appeal.