Montreal car theft ring: Three accused set free as legal process faces delays

Justice Salvatore Mascia from the Court of Quebec stated, 'Not without concern, car theft has become a scourge throughout the country and particularly in the City of Montreal.'

Montreal car theft ring: Three accused set free as legal process faces delays
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Last month, three men accused of running a luxury car theft ring in the city were released because their trial took too long to start. Justice Salvatore Mascia from the Court of Quebec had to stop the proceedings against Obeida Borghol, James Rizk, and Ali Trad. They were supposed to go to trial on May 6, 2024, after being charged in 2021 following a month-long investigation by Montreal police.

However, the judge found that the time it took for the prosecutor to move the case forward was unreasonable and violated the accused's right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Charter. Justice Mascia regretted his decision because of the wasted efforts by Montreal police in their investigation.

According to CTV Montreal:

Justice Mascia underlined how "regrettable" his decision was because investigative efforts by Montreal police were wasted.

"Not without concern, car theft has become a scourge throughout the country and particularly in the City of Montreal," he wrote in his Jan. 22 decision.

The ruling comes as the federal government and local police are taking steps to address rising concerns about car theft, particularly in hot spots like Montreal.

On February 8, 2024,  the federal government convened a national summit to address the issue of auto theft. Federal officials engaged with industry leaders, car manufacturers, police chiefs, and provincial and municipal politicians.

In November 2023, several government assets, including security and entry passes for government employees along with an office key, were stolen during the theft of Justice Minister Arif Virani's government-issued vehicle.

The case involved extensive police work, including surveillance, collaboration with other police departments, obtaining warrants, and seizing surveillance footage. The prosecution argued that the case was complex and delayed due to the pandemic backlog, but the judge ruled that it was mishandled from the beginning and that the pandemic could not be used as a blanket excuse for delays.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision, provincial court cases must be completed within 18 months. However, in this case, the delay exceeded this limit by more than double, with the defence also contributing to the delay.

Recently, Quebec provincial police recovered 53 stolen vehicles at the Port of Montreal, highlighting the issue of stolen cars being exported overseas. The federal government has allocated funds to combat this by providing more resources to the Canada Border Services Agency for detecting and searching containers.

The federal government estimates that about 90,000 cars are stolen in Canada each year, costing Canadian insurance policy holders and taxpayers around $1 billion.

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