Guns, Drugs, And Lies: Canada’s Biggest Drug Bust Adds Context To The Danforth Shooting

Written By John Goddard, Posted on February 7, 2023

He couldn’t keep his stories straight.

Oshawa businessman Maisum Ansari gave conflicting accounts of why he didn’t know that an apartment he owned was being used to stash illegal guns and huge quantities of the dangerous opioid carfentanil. The judge called him out.

“Bizarre in the extreme,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh O’Connell said of one tale. “Divorced from the truth,” he said of another. “A lie,” he said of a third.

Ultimately, the judge pronounced Ansari “guilty as charged” last week on 337 counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Most of the 33 guns were prohibited or restricted, one was fully automatic, all were loaded, most carried over-capacity magazines, and almost all were vacuum-sealed and ready for sale. The drugs included a whopping 42 kilograms of a carfentanil-caffeine mix valued at up to $16 million on the street, by far a Canadian record for a drug 40 times more toxic than the killer-opioid fentanyl. 

The guns and drugs posed the highest potential danger in recent memory to a region where politicians routinely denounce such crimes but — perhaps worried about the label “Islamophobia” — no politician ever mentions the case and news organizations have imposed a near-total blackout on it.

Ansari is now in his late 30s, a diminutive man with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, and thick, black hair slicked back into a short ponytail. His sentence could be hefty. No date has been set but his co-accused, Babar Ali, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 23 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Credit for time served while awaiting trial reduced his remaining prison time to 18 years.

Adding an extra dimension to the file, Ansari and his co-accused grew up as friends in Toronto’s troubled Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood with Faisal Hussain, the so-called “Danforth Shooter.” Six years ago, he shot 15 people along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, wounding 13 and killing a 10-year-old girl and a female teenager. He then killed himself. At Ansari’s trial, details about Faisal and his brother Fahad surfaced several times, adding context about the horrific spree.

Ansari’s problems began with a carbon monoxide alarm. 

He lived with his wife and three children in Oshawa and rented out a house he owned in neighbouring Pickering. A family moved into the upper two floors and Babar Ali rented the basement. Late one night in September 2017, the basement alarm went off and when nobody shut it off the upstairs neighbour rushed her children out and called 911. They might have died otherwise, emergency responders later said. When the neighbour called Ansari about the alarm, he told her to “get rid of them,” meaning get rid of the responders.

Instead, they stayed and, in the basement, discovered Rubbermaid bins of drugs and cupboards stuffed with guns and ammunition. Police couldn’t find Ali but days later they arrested Ansari, who almost immediately began spinning his falsehoods. “I can tell two people two different stories,” he said casually at his trial.

For the police, Ansari produced a fake lease to the basement in the name of a man who didn’t exist. In reality, he had rented the basement off the books, which meant violating a city bylaw and committing mortgage fraud, which also meant violating his oath as a certified mortgage broker. Ali paid $1,000 a month in cash. When police found $1,000 cash in Ansari’s car, Ansari said at different times that it was a rental payment and that it was a partial payment for a car he sold.

At trial, testifying in his own defence, Ansari said he had no need to run drugs and guns because he was well off. The Crown, however, produced tax returns that showed Ansari claiming a perennially low income and produced evidence that he borrowed money from his father.

Ansari alleged that police manipulated a video of his original interrogation and that, at a late-night meeting, Ali warned him to keep quiet or else. The judge said he didn’t believe the video story and said the meeting could not have happened the way Ansari described it, if it happened at all.

Maisum Ansari

Although the charges against the two men were identical, the two cases differed substantially. Police had Ali dead to rights. They arrested him on a Canada-wide warrant in Edmonton with $180,000 cash in his possession, and forensic experts lifted his fingerprints and DNA from the guns and drugs. In contrast, evidence against Ansari remained circumstantial. To get a conviction, Crown attorneys Chris Walsh and Amber Pashuk had to produce indirect evidence to prove Ansari had “knowledge and control” of the weapons and drugs.

They did so. In response, defence lawyer Leora Shemesh said she would file a complaint under Section 11b of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, alleging that an unreasonable amount of time elapsed between closing arguments and the verdict. She will ask that the conviction be stayed. 

In the meantime, Ansari continues to be free on bail. He got bail soon after his arrest and has since taken two Caribbean vacations, although after the verdict he agreed to surrender his passport. 

The Danforth Shootings connection to the case, however peripheral, fills in blanks about the crimes that Toronto police and the news media have always shown reluctance to examine closely.

Like Ansari and Ali, both Hussain brothers were heavily into guns and drugs. The elder brother, Fahad, was a cocaine addict who was arrested in Saskatoon on charges of cocaine trafficking. When he was returned to Toronto on bail, Ansari gave him a job. When he was later arrested on gun crimes, Ansari bailed him out again and acted as his surety, meaning he promised to make sure Fahad behaved himself.

Ansari moved him into the Pickering house, empty at the time, but let him throw drugs-and-alcohol parties. In June 2017, Fahad overdosed on cocaine, possibly cut with fentanyl, and lapsed into a permanent coma. Ansari then rented the basement to Ali.

At around the first anniversary of the overdose, younger brother Faisal shot 15 people on Danforth Avenue and killed himself. A Muslim activist posing as a Hussain family friend floated the story that Faisal had long had mental health issues, a deceptive narrative that has endured to this day. 

Faisal Hussain

In their final report one year later, police told of finding heroin and M.D.A. packaged for trafficking in Faisal’s bedroom. They also found loaded AK-47 magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for Glock and Ruger handguns and for a Winchester rifle. Most of Ansari’s and Ali’s handguns were Glocks, although no connection to Faisal’s stash has been established. 

The question of where Faisal got the training that enabled him to shoot 15 people on the fly, police never tried to answer. They did not look into the family’s extended return to Pakistan when Faisal was a boy, or his trip to Pakistan two or three years before the shootings during which he donated $10,000 to a mosque in Rawalpindi. 

“Little information was located due to the challenge of obtaining records from foreign non-digital databases,” the final report stated lamely.

Just as the Danforth Shootings report left gaping holes, so did Ansari’s trial. Where did Ansari and Ali get the carfentanil? Where did they get all the guns? Who were they selling to? What were they going to do with their millions?

If Toronto or Durham police ever decide to pursue the questions, they’ll almost certainly keep the answers to themselves.

John Goddard

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