Local man loses appeal on sentence

A former Burnaby high school basketball star has lost an appeal of his sentence for weapons trafficking and counselling to commit murder.

Aleksander Radjenovic, now 30, was living with his parents in New Westminster when he was sentenced in 2011 and 2012 to a total of 22 years in prison—18 years for three counts of counselling homicide and four years for the weapons charges.

He appealed, claiming that the total sentence was overly long and harsh.

Radjenovic moved to Canada with his family at age 14 from the former Yugoslavia where he witnessed the atrocities of the civil war in the early 1990s, said B.C. Court of Appeal Justice John Hall in his reasons for judgment, which were agreed to unanimously by the three-judge panel.

The family settled in 1997 as landed immigrants in Burnaby where Radjenovic starred on Burnaby South secondary's basketball and track-and-field teams. He was later recruited by Langara College to play basketball there but his playing career ended early due to a leg injury.

In 2004, he went into business by opening a hunting and fishing store that specialized in importing firearms from Europe. He eventually became involved in a scheme to exploit a loophole in Canadian law in which deactivated firearms could be sold without complying with licencing regulations, the judgment said.

In 2006, Radjenovic received 300 handguns at Vancouver airport and took them to a Burnaby facility where he instructed an associate to remove identity markings from the guns. Then he began selling them.

He was arrested and charged with trafficking in weapons soon afterwards.

It was while he was out on bail and awaiting trial that he started up a new business venture—arranging murders for profit.

Between Nov. 1, 2008 and May 21, 2009, he counselled another person to commit the murders of three targeted individuals. That person "agreed, feeling he had no other choice," but eventually became a police agent.

While attempts were made on the three targets, the murders were never carried out. Nor were the plans abandoned.

Instead, Radjenovic rented an apartment in New Westminster and installed a safe in a bedroom closet where firearms and ammunition were stored and he and the police agent could meet. They tested out the weapons at night at Riverway Golf Course in Burnaby. A few months later, the police agent hired a lawyer and went to the police.

"Ultimately, no one was killed but that was more by fortuitous happenstance than any lack of effort on the part of the appellant," the judgment said.

When the police agent told Radjenovic he had killed one of the targets, he was congratulated. Shortly afterwards, police arrested Radjenovic and charged him with counselling the three homicides.

"Murder is usually considered to be the apex of criminal behaviour," the judgment said. "He professed satisfaction when advised (falsely) that a killing had occurred. This is anti-social behaviour of a high and serious order."

In dismissing the appeal, the Hall said the lengthy total sentence is required to denounce the crimes and serve as a deterrence. And, he noted, one of the most aggravating circumstances was that Radjenovic was out on bail on the weapons charges and required to refrain from breaking the law when the murderer-for-hire scheme was launched.

"This circumstance demonstrates that this appellant is particularly in need of lengthy and effective external supervision to avoid future breaches of the criminal law."

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