Arrest may have exposed police to TB

Adrian Humphreys National Post Wednesday, December 15, 1999

TORONTO – One of the alleged members of a far-reaching East European organized crime ring that was dismantled by police with great fanfare last week is believed to be suffering from active tuberculosis, and officers involved in his arrest are now fearful they might have contracted the life-threatening infectious disease.

The suspect, one of the first men charged in Project Osada II, a large police probe that arrested dozens of people in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Windsor, appeared in bail court yesterday wearing a surgical mask over his mouth and nose.

A source told the National Post that he refused to be tested for tuberculosis and police are weighing their options. Officers were apparently alerted to the potential danger by a medical officer of health.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease of the lungs and is uncommon in developed countries today. Most of those arrested for drug importation, credit and debit card fraud, forgery of immigration documents and a variety of other alleged offences were recent immigrants to Canada from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

It is not known how many police officers or jail guards may have come into contact with the suspect. At least two police officers would have escorted the man from where he was arrested to a police station for processing and several others were likely involved in the arrest and subsequent search.

RCMP Superintendent Ben Soave, head of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and supervisor of the two-year investigation, said he could not confirm reports of a suspect with TB, but said his officers are looking into it.

The number arrested in the project has now climbed to 45, including more arrests in Toronto and Windsor. There are several people still wanted by police, including suspects believed to be in Europe and the United States.