Talal Khatib’s four day trial wrapped up in Inuvik Aug. 19. During the trial, seven witnesses were called. Eric Bowling/NNSL Photo
The trial of a long-time Inuvik property owner and businessman charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possessing the proceeds of crime wrapped up this week in Inuvik.
After four days of testimony from Aug. 16 to 19 where the Crown presented over 150 photos, two videos and called five witnesses, compared with two witnesses called by the defence, Judge Louise Charbonneau said she would need to consider the evidence before she could deliver her verdict in the trial of Talal Khatib.
Because of recent heart surgery, Khatib was allowed to attend the trial remotely from his home in Edmonton. Three of the Crown’s witnesses also testified remotely by CCTV.
During a raid on Oct. 20, 2017, RCMP found a 64-gram chunk of crack cocaine wrapped in paper towel under a heating vent in a middle room. Two baby food bottles, one holding 173 grams and the other 124 grams of cocaine, were also located in the heating vent system in a basement portion of the property alongside several rolls of cash totalling $23,110. An additional $2,360 was found hidden inside a mattress in the back bedroom and another $563.24 was found in a discarded pair of pants belonging to Khatib in the same room. Another $200 was found in a jacket pocket near the front door, and Khatib had $180 on his person when arrested Oct. 20.
No evidence linking accused to charge: Defence
Defence lawyer Kate Oja said the evidence presented in court was extensive, but none of it linked her client to the two charges he was facing.
“There is no direct evidence of knowledge of the cocaine,” she said. “There was no cocaine found on his person. There is absolutely no evidence to establish it was cocaine being sold by Khatib.”
Oja called two witnesses, Abdallah Mohamed and Victor Ciboci. Mohamed was the owner of the building at the time, who testified that he was aware that Khatib was living with the lease-holder when they moved into 22 Kugmallit Road from 7 Raven Street, which he also owned. He also stated there was no plywood door on the staircase, no plywood blocking the entrance to the boiler room and no hole in between the two floors when he took over ownership of the residence July 17, 2017, and that the lease-holder was his first tenant in the building.
Oja also said there was no evidence the cash found in the mattress belonged to Khatib, nor was it ever established the back room was his, as items belonging to other people known in the house were also found in the same room.
“It’s a house with stuff everywhere,” she said. “A lot of the items were not catalogued by police. We don’t know where Khatib was sleeping.
Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane said the question before the court was if there were reasonable alternatives explanations why Khatib was found in the building with cocaine and tens of thousands of dollars, and the judge needed to look at the evidence as a whole.
He noted if the crack and cocaine was not in the house to be sold it made no sense that it was there at all.
“Who would risk that amount of cocaine and money with that much attention of the public?” he asked. “Why would that cocaine be there for a purpose other than trafficking? It’s an outrageous risk.”
He said the court knows the plywood barriers and the hole between floors were not present before the defendant moved into the building, and pointed out Khatib was observed selling something from the window of a house he was later found inside with drugs.
Fane argued the fact the cocaine was inaccessible from beside the window during the police search didn’t mean it couldn’t have been moved there.
“The house has been modified to facilitate drug dealing,” he said. “It is a house with a purpose.
“The only reasonable inference is guilt.”
Judge Charbonneau said the court would meet again Monday to establish a date for her to read out her verdict.
A decision is scheduled for Oct. 18 in Courtroom 101 in Yellowknife at 1:30 p.m. Khatib will attend by video from his home in Edmonton.
Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....
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