OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has effectively upheld the acquittal of three people who were charged with human smuggling after a rickety ship arrived off the coast of British Columbia carrying hundreds of Tamil migrants.

In a decision Thursday, the high court turned down the Crown's application for an appeal hearing in the case.

In August 2010, the Canadian navy intercepted the cargo ship MV Sun Sea carrying 492 people from strife-torn Sri Lanka and escorted it to CFB Esquimalt, near Victoria.

Lesly Emmanuel, Nadarajah Mahendran and Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam were charged with violating the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act by organizing, inducing, aiding or abetting the illegal entry of people into Canada.

The Crown alleged the men were part of a human-smuggling operation linked to organized crime.

Emmanuel, who captained the ship, testified that he boarded as a passenger, then reluctantly took the helm to avert disaster for the vessel.

The Crown accused Canadian citizens Mahendran and Rajaratnam, who were not aboard the ship, of helping organize the voyage.

Both argued the evidence that led to their identification was seriously flawed.

The three men were acquitted in early 2017 by a jury in B.C. Supreme Court.

Last June, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the verdicts, saying the Crown had not demonstrated a reasonable possibility that any errors committed by the trial judge affected the outcome.

As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for refusing to hear the case.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2020.

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