Edmonton… Ten suspects have been arrested and 139 charges laid in relation to one of Canada’s largest fentanyl seizures, which included the dismantling of a Calgary area fentanyl superlab.
ALERT Edmonton’s organized crime and gang team have concluded Project Essence almost one year since the Calgary area fentanyl superlab was dismantled in July 2021. Details of Project Essence were shared at a September 2021 news conference by ALERT, which reported seizing more than 31 kilograms of fentanyl and its precursors and 7,600 kilograms of chemicals used in fentanyl production, with an estimated street value in excess of $300 million.
The arrests were made at the beginning of June 2022 after investigators completed the required reports and disclosure for Crown Counsel. Further, Health Canada laboratory expert analysis on the substances seized was also completed.
One of the substances seized, initially reported as 10.5 kilograms of a synthetic opioid, was analyzed by Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service and identified as isotonitazene. Isotonitazene, an illicit drug regulated under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is a synthetic opioid that is believed to be more potent than fentanyl. To date, the quantity of isotonitazene seized as a result of ALERT’s investigation is the largest reported seizure of isotonitazene in North America.
The suspects are charged with a variety of offence, ranging from fentanyl production to criminal conspiracy:
Project Essence covered all aspects of fentanyl production; from importation, to accumulation and stockpiling of equipment and raw chemicals, to production, and eventual distribution. The investigation began in February 2021.
Chemical disposal and containment costs associated to the lab were approximately $75,000.
During the investigation, ALERT relied on the expertise and assistance of a number of specialized agencies, including Edmonton Police, Calgary Police, RCMP, Health Canada, Alberta Health Services, CBSA, Okotoks Fire Department, Foothill County Fire Department, British Columbia Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and Alberta Environment.