A portion of the Oxycodone pills police recovered Monday in a raid.
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The Thunder Bay Drug Enforcement Unit has seized nearly 3,330 Oxycodone pills worth an estimated $659,000.
Two elderly Serbian nationals were taken into custody on Monday at a Memorial Avenue Parking lot, the arrests later leading to a search warrant and subsequent seizure of pills at a nearby motel.
Police arrested 79-year-old Andy Ljubomir Radic and 73-year-old Branislav Vuksanovic. Both have been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking under the Controlled Substance Distribution Act.
Both men also face a charge of proceeds of crime under $5,000.
While not the largest seizure in TBPS history, it was a significant one, police spokesman Chris Adams said.
"We have had slightly larger seizures in the past. But in this particular case it should trouble the community to see that amount of Oxydodone still available, still able to be brought into our city and to ultimately have a destination of our streets."
Despite the manufacturer no longer offering oxycodone in Canada, Adams said the drug is still in high demand and where there's a will, there's a way.
"It's harder to get than it was, thanks to OxyNeo, but unfortunately there are still a couple of things to deal with. It's still available outside of Canada. It also is a drug that has a generic that is available," Adams said. "Having said that, if you're looking at it from a straight drug business standpoint, there's still a market for it and obviously Northwestern Ontario is still seen as a destination by people involved in this kind of criminal activity."
Adams said police still aren't sure where the drugs originated from, whether they were smuggled in from overseas or another destination. Most likely it was headed for the streets of Thunder Bay, but it might not have stayed there long.
"We have to always be cognizent of the fact we are a hub as well to other communities in the North. And Northern reserves, unfortunately, have high addiction rates. So the demand for the drug is very high. The street value it represents, of almost $660,000, is really saying a lot about what the drug goes for at an individual pill level here in Thunder Bay," he said.
While it won't eliminate the drug trade in the city by any means, the latest bust should have an impact, Adams added.
"Every one of these types of busts is very significant and disrupting to the drug traffic. Will it eliminate it? No it will not. As long as there is a demand, as long as people want to pay high amounts of money for these types of addictive drugs it's still going to be there. We can see by this one, we've got people who are Serbian nationals who are obviously (allegedly) in the country trying to make money out of this kind of activity," Adams said.
"We've seen it from southern Ontario, we've seen it from other parts of Canada and globally the drug business is very big business."
Adams could not say how long Radic and Vuksanovic have been in Canada, only that it appears their connections don't stop in Thunder Bay.
Both suspects were taken into custody, where they’ll remain until their court date on Aug. 29.
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