Deported cocaine smuggler wanted again

He returned to B.C. after a name change then fled once more. Now he’s in a U.S. jail awaiting extradition on new charges

By Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun
November 11, 2010

A Mexican national charged last month with smuggling almost 100 kilos of cocaine into Kelowna had already been convicted in B.C. of a similar crime and deported almost a decade ago.

But Victor Perez Rodriguez, 43, managed to get a pardon and return to Canada under a new name until he fled the country after the cocaine was intercepted by police in late September.

Rodriguez, who earlier lived in Canada as Salvador Ascencio Chavez, now sits in a San Diego jail, where he is awaiting an extradition hearing on Dec. 16, 2010.

He was arrested Oct. 14, along with Surrey’s Tariq Mohammed Aslam, 32, in a car in San Clemente, Calif., en route to Mexico. Aslam is expected to be returned to Canada later this month.

Both men and two others from Kelowna were charged Oct. 4 with conspiracy to import cocaine after a fruit harvesting machine linked to the four and imported from Argentina was found to have 97.5 kilos of cocaine hidden inside.

U.S. court documents confirm Rodriguez is also known as Salvador Ascencio Chavez.

His lawyer in San Diego, Leila Morgan, refused to confirm his real identity or his status in Canada at the time of the new charges.

“They are attempting to extradite him to Canada,” is all she would say.

“I am not going to discuss the case with you.”

And Johanne Nadeau, of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said she was unable to confirm Rodriguez’s status in the country due to privacy laws.

Under the name Ascencio Chavez, he was convicted in Richmond Provincial Court in July 2001 of importing cocaine into Canada. He got a three-year sentence.

Rodriguez was ordered deported less than a year later because of his criminal conviction, according to immigration documents obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

His immigration hearing was held at Matsqui Institution on Jan. 8, 2002 and adjudicator Marc Tessler explained his decision.

“I’m satisfied therefore that you are a person described in the allegation and I am required to make a deportation order against you, which I hereby do,” Tessler said. “Once you have been removed, you may never return to Canada unless you have the prior written consent of the Minister of Immigration.”

Supt. Brian Cantera, who heads the RCMP’s federal drug enforcement branch, said the investigation into the cocaine-smuggling operation is continuing.

Rodriguez’s status after he returned to Canada is part of the probe, Cantera said. “We can say for certain that he was given a pardon,” he said. “We are clearly looking into it further. The investigation is still being conducted.”

He said Rodriguez is married to a Canadian woman with a young child in B.C.

Caroline Douglas, of the Parole Board of Canada, said foreign criminals can apply for a pardon just like Canadian criminals, if they feel they’re rehabilitated and should no longer have a record.

“The onus is on the applicant to provide accurate and verifiable information,” she said. “Applicants sign a consent form giving the Parole Board of Canada the authority to conduct investigations with justice system participants. The board is thereby able to inquire within Interpol through the RCMP for any information held by foreign agencies on an applicant, and with CBSA.”

The harvesting machine in which the cocaine was discovered was flown from Argentina to the U.S. “and from Florida it was trucked up to Canada,” Cantera said.

According to U.S. court documents, Rodriguez is not facing charges south of the border in connection with the cocaine.

“We are trying to get him back here for prosecution and we are still actively investigating the offences,” Cantera said.

He also said investigators are trying to see if there is a direct link between a Mexican cartel and the cocaine shipment linked to Rodriguez and his group.