By Tim Petruk/Kamloops This Week
The Shuswap man believed by American authorities to be a cross-border drug kingpin has been granted bail pending the appeal of his extradition to Seattle.
Colin Hugh Martin was granted bail in Vancouver last week while his extradition is appealed.
In May, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Martin should be sent to the U.S. to face charges for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine.
U.S. prosecutors allege Martin, who lives in Malakwa, ran a sophisticated, large-scale smuggling ring that saw millions of dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine, MDMA and firearms transported by helicopter between B.C. and remote locations in northern Idaho and Washington state.
Court heard Martin would hire people in B.C. to load the helicopters with as much as $5-million worth of marijuana or MDMA, then pay pilots to fly the choppers to pre-determined locations across the U.S.-Canada border.
The haul of B.C. bud or pills would allegedly be unloaded by a ground crew in the U.S., and cocaine, firearms and money would be loaded into the helicopter for transport back to Canada.
Court heard Martin’s crews made approximately three cross-border trips every two weeks.
The smuggling operation is linked to the February 2009 death of Samuel Lindsay-Brown.
The 24-year-old Nelson native was piloting one of the choppers linked to the smuggling ring and was arrested after landing with 400 pounds of marijuana in Washington state. He later hanged himself in a Spokane jail cell.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into the operation resulted in multiple arrests on both sides of the border.
According to U.S. court documents, Martin offered in 2009 to make a deal with the DEA that would see him roll on other smugglers in exchange for the opportunity to continue his trafficking business unimpeded for 10 years.
Authorities did not accept his offer.
In 2006, Martin was sentenced to serve two-and-a-half years behind bars after being convicted of Canadian charges stemming from another cross-border drug-smuggling ring.
American prosecutors have charged Martin with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute.
They want him to stand trial in Seattle.
Martin was arrested after he was ordered extradited on May 9.
He was granted bail largely because of the health of his wife, who has a heart condition, and her inability to care for the couple’s seven children.
Martin has been ordered to abide by a 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. curfew while on bail and will be forced to allow police to search his home at any time.
It’s not known when his appeal will be heard.
Martin also faces separate drug-related charges for production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking. These stem from a 2010 police raid at a Malakwa residence and neighbouring workshop. He is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 5, with sentencing to begin Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. in Kelowna.