Coke dealer gets 5 years
Cocaine could have sold for $150,000

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 26/97) - A Yellowknife man was sentenced to five years in Jail Friday after being convicted of dealing cocaine.

Supreme Court justice Benjamin Hewak suggested things would have been much worse if Tai Tuan Lam was still living in Vietnam, where a Canadian woman was recently sentenced to death for the same crime.

Lam denied the cocaine police found tucked inside another man's pants was his. But a Yellowknife jury thought otherwise Thursday and found him guilty of trafficking in narcotics.

Lam, 20, was one of three men RCMP arrested at Yellowknife airport after getting off a flight from Hay River Nov. 15.

Police discovered 263 grams of cocaine with a purity of 91 per cent, worth in that stage between $44,447 to $59,120.

Cut to 60 or 70 per cent purity and sold in one-gram packets, the cocaine would become worth between $130,000 to $150,000, police said.

The jury deliberated for about seven hours Thursday, asking Hewak to clarify one piece of evidence about Lam denying he did not know the other two men.

Following the verdict, Crown prosecutor Scott Cooper noted that Lam had been convicted in youth court of assault with a weapon and aggravated assault as well as trafficking in narcotics.

Defence counsel Michael Triggs argued there was no evidence that Lam was the ringleader and the plan was unsophisticated.

But Cooper said that Lam's scheme was beyond social trafficking and indicative of a commercial venture in which a "mule" or courier is used to shield himself to avoid detection and making for a sophisticated operation.

"Purchased in Edmonton and brought up here, the profits are tremendous," Cooper added.

Hewak said he mentioned the Vietnamese death sentence to show how seriously some countries look upon drug trafficking. In Canada, the maximum punishment is life in prison.

Hewak said he took into account the fact that Lam had already spent five months in jail when he handed down the five-year sentence.