RCMP ‘adapted’ to unusual situation with arrival of Tamil migrant ship: Crown

By The Canadian Press
January 17, 2017 - 8:30am Updated: January 17, 2017 - 3:05pm

VANCOUVER — A Crown attorney says the RCMP adapted to a “rather unusual situation” when they investigated the arrival of a dilapidated vessel carrying 492 Tamil migrants off British Columbia’s coast in 2010.

Charles Hough said in closing arguments at the human-smuggling trial of two Canadians and two Sri Lankans that police had to diverge from usual procedure when interviewing hundreds of migrants who had been aboard the MV Sun Sea.

Defence lawyers argued last week the Canadian men were misidentified by witnesses because the RCMP repeatedly showed migrants photos of their clients with identifying marks. One lawyer said Mounties showed “total disregard” of policies established to “protect people’s liberty.”

However, Hough told the jury Tuesday the police “adapted.”

“Use your common sense and think about it,” he said. “Putting a photo book to a witness, asking them open-ended questions: ‘Who did this?’ ‘Do you recognize them?’ Ask yourself whether that would produce reliable information. I submit that it would.”

All four men have pleaded not guilty to organizing the voyage of the cargo ship, which sailed from Thailand on July 5, 2010, and was intercepted by Canadian authorities in B.C. waters a month later.

Hough told the jury he made an error last week when he said a lawyer for Kunarobinson Christhurajah had argued his client had divested himself of the company that owned the ship. In fact, Hough said Tuesday, lawyer Casey Leggett had not made that argument.

Leggett argued there was no evidence his client profited from his actions and the Crown had failed to prove he hadn’t acted for a humanitarian purpose, the Vancouver Sun reported.

The two Canadian men, Nadarajah Mahendran and Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam, were not aboard the ship. They are accused of being agents who travelled to Bangkok to arrange migrants’ journeys.

The men passed through customs at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport less than two minutes apart on July 7, 2010, two days after the ship left Thailand, Hough told the jury.

“After the ship leaves for Canada on July 5, you’re not going to need agents anymore. You’re not going to need people on the beach helping people into fishing boats,” he said.

He also questioned the argument that the men were misidentified by migrants. Referring to a witness who testified that Mahendran had been his agent, Hough said it was unlikely that the witness would forget the man who helped him get to Canada.

“Important people in your life you tend to remember.”

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

Laura Kane , The Canadian Press

Wild B.C. weather expected to bring heavy rain, snow, wind and some flooding