KITCHENER — A Kitchener couple accused of importing opium into the country will have a preliminary hearing next month.
Rashed Yeghani, 46, and Fariba Yeganehnia, 43, were arrested in January, 2011 after border inspectors at a mail-sorting facility became suspicious of a package mailed from the Middle East.
Police made a controlled delivery to their home where it is alleged they received the package.
Inside the package were hidden walls with two kilograms of opium packed into the sides, according to details released last year by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Kitchener detachment. The drugs have an estimated street value of about $100,000.
Federal prosecutor Richard Prendiville told a judge Tuesday the case is circumstantial.
The judge said that to get a conviction, the prosecutor will have to prove the couple knew the opium was coming. The couple have chosen trial by judge and jury.
A preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial and to give defence lawyers a look at the Crown’s case.
The couple is also charged with possessing opium for the purpose of trafficking.
Last October, a Kitchener man was sentenced to five years in prison for importing a kilogram of opium from Turkey. Nejmeddin Rahmani, 41, is appealing the decision.
Suspicious border officials intercepted a package at Hamilton International Airport and found a pressed sheet of the brown substance hidden in the lining of the lid. It was worth about $25,000.
Turkey is a source country for raw opium. Rahmani came to Canada from Iran, by way of Turkey, about 16 years ago. He was involved in a business exporting used clothes to Iran, where most of his relatives still live, when he was arrested.
He suggested he had been framed by political enemies in Iran where he was once politically active. He said he didn’t know what was in the package, but a judge ruled that there was enough circumstantial evidence to convict him.
Opium is smoked in its raw form by some ethnic groups or refined to make heroin for a wider market.
In the latest Kitchener case, RCMP said last year that they don’t believe the couple intended to turn the opium into a street drug.
“There are ethnic groups that would be consuming this stuff in that form, as it is, “said the RCMP’s Staff Sgt. Pierre Gagnon.
The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21 and 24.