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Three men charged related to 2020 drug busts in BC Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

Project Juliet saw the seizure of fentanyl, drugs, cash, firearms valued at $30 million
Victoria police seized $30 million in fentanyl, drugs, cash and firearms during Project Juliet in 2020. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)

Charges have been laid against three men arrested in a 2020 drug bust where $30 million in fentanyl, other drugs, cash and firearms were seized.

Brian James Balla, 34, who now lives in Victoria and is originally from Calgary, was charged with five counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance and three counts of trafficking a controlled substance. He was taken into custody on Feb. 9, 2022 in Victoria and is awaiting a bail hearing.

Vu Bao Nguyen, 34, of Surrey faces 10 counts spread across those two charges. Vancouver’s Brent William Van Buskirk, 35, faces three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance, along with eight counts of possessing a prohibited firearm without authorization and two counts of possessing a non-restricted firearm without a license.

Van Buskirk is in custody and awaits the judicial process, police said, after having his parole for a 2004 murder conviction revoked when he was arrested in 2020.

In June 2020, the Victoria Police Department’s Strike Force identified an organized crime group trafficking fentanyl in the city and soon discovered they were also distributing on the Lower Mainland – the base for the B.C. fentanyl supply chain.

READ: Joint forces operation seizes $30 million in fentanyl, drugs, cash, firearms

Later that summer, VicPD partnered with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC to launch Project Juliet. On Nov. 17 of that year, VicPD conducted four search warrants – arresting one suspect at a Fairfield Road suite and another from a vehicle in the 900-block of Yates Street.

The bust resulted in Victoria officers seizing more than one kilogram of cocaine, more than two kilograms of high-concentration fentanyl, more than two kilograms of methamphetamine, and evidence of drug re-purposing and packaging for a trafficking operation, including over six kilograms of cutting agents. VicPD also seized a replica assault rifle and $50,000 in cash.

Along with searches conducted on the Lower Mainland, the total investigation seized 20 firearms, large quantities of suspected fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, more than $385,000 in Canadian cash and three luxury vehicles.

“In a year where over 2,200 people in British Columbia have died from a suspected illicit drug overdose, it is clear that more joint operation work like this must be done to end the deaths,” Victoria police Chief Const. Del Manak said in a Thursday release.

READ: Fairy Creek accused ask court for stay of charges due to ‘systemic police misconduct’

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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