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Monday, November 28, 2022

Charges dropped against group accused of flying helicopter to Newport to drop off pot

NEWPORT — Charges have been dropped against a group of people who were arrested after flying a helicopter from Quebec to Newport, Vermont, to allegedly drop off duffel bags of marijuana.

Ramindejit Assi, Kamal Deep Bassan, Derek Chi-Yeung Ng, and Parmjot Saini, all from Ontario, were arrested following a 16-month joint investigation with the Department of Homeland Security and the RCMP.

Investigators claimed the group used a Jet Ranger helicopter to ferry cannabis across the Canada-U.S. border, flying at low altitude to avoid detection.

According to court documents, Assi and Bassan were directors of a company that operated as a helicopter tour company, but never logged any flights.

Court records state the helicopter flew on several “non-squawking” flights, where the chopper isn’t communicating with air traffic control and without a transponder.

In July of 2020, several people in Vermont notified authorities of a low-flying helicopter, and a dropped cell phone was located by police.

On August 27, 2020, the RCMP said the helicopter flew from a location in Quebec, to somewhere near Newport, before flying back.

“During this flight, the helicopter was inside US territory for only three minutes, and hovered over the ground for 1-2 minutes,” the affidavit says.

The RCMP located the helicopter that day being towed by a truck to a hotel in Montreal, where the men were arrested.

It appears there was a problem with the search warrant, and the charges were subsequently dropped.

Court documents state that the helicopter was tracked on three occasions crossing the border on brief trips that “are believed to be incidents of cross-border smuggling.”

The RCMP is still holding the $380,000 helicopter, but the men are fighting in court to have it returned.

Their lawyer says they deny any wrongdoing and believe that they have the right to the return of their lawful property.

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