By Lisa Mayor
A 71-year-old man is facing three criminal charges after an alleged attempt at bringing explosives onto an airplane.
Anthony Piazza, born in Iran with the name Houshang Nazemi, was detained at the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) on Sunday.
Piazza was boarding an international flight to Los Angeles when his carry-on baggage was intercepted at the security checkpoint.
Piazza faces three charges: being in possession of an explosive substance, conspiracy to transport an explosive substance on an airplane, and endangering the safety of an airport or aircraft. The Crown said the final charge faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. He will appear in court today. Piazza received a 10-year drug trafficking sentence in 1985 under his former name.
During the bomb scare, flights in part of the airport were cancelled for several hours and a nearby neighborhood was evacuated for a police investigation.
Montreal Police Department officer spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant told Humber News that part of the airport was closed for the safety of others in the area.
“Especially for [the safety of] people that were in the airport — there were flights cancelled and it was a situation we didn’t want to take any risks with,” he said. “There was an evacuation made for the safety of everyone.”
Mathieu Larocque, spokesperson for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, told Humber News that CATSA agents found the suspicious items at the carry-on baggage screening point.
“On Sunday morning at around 5:45 a.m., a passenger was going through the trans border checkpoint,” Larocque said. “They found something suspicious and they immediately called the Montreal police to have a closer look, and at that point the police took over the whole situation.”
Larocque said in situations that involve illegal weapons, the police are always called to the scene.
“We have situations at the checkpoint when we see certain items [like] prohibited weapons or potential explosives, and we call the police,” he said. “If we see something that looks like a Swiss army knife, that doesn’t require police.”
“Effectively, the standard procedures were followed at that point” he said. “Our screening officers are not police officers, they don’t have the powers that police have. We can’t confiscate anything or arrest or detain passengers. We cannot confiscate illegal items, so we call in the police and they make the decisions.
Babant said the police were called to intervene because of the content of the baggage.
“A suspicious package [was found] at the airport and from there, people were evacuated in the airport and the SWAT team was on-site,” Babant said. “We got some information that lead us to a suspect in Lasalle, which is 20 minutes from the airport…the SWAT team went to check some stuff in the house and we were able to make an arrest [at the airport].”
Montreal police said Piazza’s carry-on bag contained components for making an explosive device. They said it did not carry explosive material.
Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere said Piazza had numerous parts of an explosive device but not the explosive itself.
Piazza will be present in a Montreal court today for a bail hearing.
On this map, the blue line shows the straight-line distance from YUL to Lasalle, which is 9.41 km. The green line shows the driving distance (one route option) which is 9.9 km. The green dot is Lasalle, and the blue airplane is YUL.