Canada’s Biggest Carfentanil Drug Trial Concludes

Written By John Goddard, Posted on April 1, 2021

Oshawa Businessman Maisum Ansari also Faces Serious Weapons Offences

Masked lawyers delivered closing arguments behind plexiglass Wednesday at the trial of Maisum Ansari, an Oshawa businessman charged with possession of an astonishing stash of illegal weapons and drugs for the purpose of trafficking. 

“A lot of people could have been killed,” a police detective told Ansari the day of his arrest in October 2017. But nobody did die. Instead, a neighbour who was worried about insects closed a window to a basement apartment and secret drug lab, blocking ventilation and setting off a carbon-monoxide alarm. When responding firefighters spotted nine trays of chalky lumps laid out on the kitchen counter and bins of similar lumps in the bathroom, they called police.


The drugs alone included 42 kilograms of the deadly drug-booster carfentanil mixed with caffeine, the biggest ever Canadian carfentanil bust and said to be worth up to $17 million on the street. The drug is a relatively new substance, said to be 40 times more toxic than the powerful opioid fentanyl. Of the 33 guns found, all were loaded, all had over-capacity magazines, and all except one were listed either as restricted or prohibited in Canada.


Two men face 111 identical charges. Both have pleaded not guilty. One is said to have run the lab and weapons operation from the basement unit of a duplex in Pickering, near Oshawa, in the Greater Toronto Area. When Covid-19 rules allow, he is to face a jury trial and can’t be named until then. At the moment he is Mr. X. The other man is Ansari, who owned and rented out the Pickering duplex. He is being tried without a jury by Justice Hugh O’Connell of the Ontario Court of Justice in Oshawa. 

Adding an extra dimension to the case, both accused men, in their mid-30s, grew up in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood as friends with the Hussain brothers, Faisal and Fahad. Their names kept popping up in two weeks of trial testimony.

Faisal was the so-called Danforth Shooter, who on a balmy night in July 2018 shot 15 people in a spree along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, killing a female teenager and a 10-year-old girl. One year earlier in June 2017, while living at Ansari’s same Pickering house, Fahad overdosed on cocaine and other substances and lapsed into a permanent coma. Police and politicians have repeatedly characterized the Danforth attack as a product of mental illness, but the current trial adds context about the brothers’ seamy criminal lives.


On Wednesday, prosecutor Christopher Walsh laid out the Crown’s case against Ansari. The accused was living a regular life with his wife and three children while working for a Toronto bottled-water company, but that life changed with a Whatsapp message on July 12, 2017, the prosecutor said. Long-time friend Mr. X asked if he could use the Pickering basement.

Mr. X cooked drugs and stored guns in the space and Ansari had equal access to it, the prosecutor said, projecting text messages onto a courtroom screen and over Zoom about Ansari’s comings and goings. Other messages, Walsh said, indicated Mr. X’s trust regarding Ansari’s free access.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Ansari knew what was happening in his basement and facilitated it,” Walsh said. 

Altogether, police extracted 11,000 pages of phone logs, text messages, emails and photos downloaded from several cellphones, especially Ansari’s. Drawing on the data, Walsh reconstructed events leading to the night of the bust on Sept. 20, 2017. After firefighters arrived, Ansari told the upstairs tenant by phone to say the alarm battery was defective and the firefighters should leave. After police arrived, Ansari began a frantic all-night car trip across the GTA, Walsh said, a trip that coincided at points with Mr. X’s travels that night. 

(Photo from Global News)

(Photo from Global News)

Among arguments lasting nearly an hour and a half, Walsh gave examples of Ansari’s false statements to police. Ansari said he rented the basement unit not to Mr. X but to a Waseem Khan. Ansari’s wife, who has not been charged, also produced a phoney lease and a forged driver’s licence in Khan’s name but bearing Mr. X’s photo. Police established that Khan does not exist.

“All three [Ansari, his wife and Mr. X] knew exactly what was happening in the basement and all three were involved in a cover-up,” Walsh said.

To get a conviction, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ansari rented the unit to a drug-and-guns dealer and had “knowledge and control” of the crimes, or at least assisted in them.

In a two-hour rebuttal, defence lawyer Leora Shemesh argued that the Crown’s case amounted to “a heap of speculation.” Despite forensic investigations, police turned up no fingerprints and no DNA to connect Ansari to drugs or guns, she said. At his Oshawa house, they similarly found no guns, no drugs, no cash, and no separate cellphone. They produced no photographic or videotaped evidence of his involvement and no witnesses. 


At the same time, Shemesh said, Ansari cooperated with police, voluntarily turned over his phones and computer, and “did everything in his power… [to] lead police in the right direction” without ratting out Mr. X. If Ansari invented stories about Waseem Khan, it was to support Mrs. Ansari, who had a close relationship with Mr. X’s mother. He also had reason to be afraid of Mr. X, Shemesh said.

As for all-night travels across the city, Ansari was considering next steps after the raid at his Pickering house, the lawyer said, and he returned the following day to mundane errands and office work.

One particular piece of evidence stands out, Shemesh said. Four days before the police bust, Ansari snapped a photo of baking trays stacked on the garage steps at the Pickering house and sent them to the upstairs tenant asking, “Are these yours?” The trays would later be found on the kitchen counter loaded with millions of dollars worth of carfentanil, but Ansari’s query, his lawyer suggested, showed that he had no clue whose trays they were or what they were for.

Lawyers on both sides are to submit written arguments by the end of April. A final judgment might take a number of months, Justice O’Connell said.

John Goddard

John Goddard is a former Toronto Star and Canadian Press reporter and winner of two National Magazine Awards. His latest book, “The Man with the Black Valise,” tracks the murderer of young Jessie Keith near Stratford, Ont., in 1894.

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