WINDSOR -- A Kitchener truck driver stopped at the Ambassador Bridge in 2011 with two suitcases of cocaine has been sentenced to a decade behind bars.

Drago Knezevic, 59, was sentenced in a Windsor courtroom on Monday to 10 years in prison minus 18 days credit for importing cocaine into Canada. Knezevic was also found guilty and sentenced for possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

The crown had asked Justice Christopher Bondy for a sentence of 10 to 12 years while the defence recommended three years.

Justice Bondy cited a number of factors that shaped his decision, pointing to Knezevic’s series of medical ailments including a congenital heart condition, kidney disease and diabetes as well as the defendant’s clean criminal record up until his guilty verdict.

This is the second trial for Knezevic, who was acquitted during his first trial in 2015 by a Superior Court judge who agreed the Kitchener man had no idea he was transporting cocaine.

An appeal in 2016 saw a new trial ordered.

Justice Bondy noted the RCMP conducted a “less than desirable investigation” and left the court unable to determine if Knezevic was anything more than a courier.

Court heard the cocaine was found among a shipment of berries headed for a grocery store in Etobicoke.

Justice Bondy allowed Knezevic a chance to speak in court during his sentencing. Through an interpreter, Knezevic maintained his innocence, saying he “didn’t load the suitcases” into the truck.

Knezevic moved to Canada in 1997 from Serbia during a period of conflict in the region. Knezevic, an ethnic Serb, fled with his wife, an ethnic Croat, at a time when hostilities between the nationalities presented significant danger to their wellbeing.

Knezevic worked as a trucker since 1999, but no longer has his licence as a consequence of his medical conditions.