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A police agent who infiltrated the so-called Toronto 18 started using cocaine shortly before police began making arrests in the alleged terror plot, the agent admitted under cross-examination Thursday.

Mubin Shaikh is the Crown's key witness at the trial of Fahim Ahmad, Steven Chand and Asad Ansari, who are charged with terrorism offences. He has testified he worked with CSIS on the investigation since 2004, later became an RCMP agent and attended a terrorist training camp north of Toronto in December 2005 allegedly led by Ahmad.

Mr. Shaikh said he began using cocaine, doing a "couple of lines," in late May 2006, then over the next few months became addicted, needing another fix as frequently as every 20 minutes, he said.

"It was out of control," Mr. Shaikh told the jury trial.

The line of questioning about Mr. Shaikh's drug use lasted most of the morning as Ahmad's lawyer, Dennis Edney, grilled Mr. Shaikh on his credibility for a second day.

"By December of 2006 ... you were now an addict and a father of five children, and someone whose evidence we're relying upon in the course of this trial, yes?" Mr. Edney said.

Mr. Shaikh agreed, but noted that his first hit of cocaine came mere days before a group of men and youth were rounded up on June 2, 2006 and charged with terrorism offences. Mr. Shaikh said the investigation and the subsequent attention were traumatic events that precipitated his addiction.

Mr. Shaikh gave an interview to the CBC in July of that year, revealing his identity and his role in the investigation. In court Wednesday he said he went public in part because he was disappointed the RCMP had not publicly recognized that some in the Muslim community had helped the investigation. However, he said he had a hard time dealing with the results of the interview.

"You have no idea the fallout that occurred in the community thereafter," Mr. Shaikh said. "I became very depressed because of what happened."

The Crown alleges Ahmad was the leader of a terror cell and held two training camps to assess his recruits' suitability to help carry out his plans to attack Parliament, electrical grids and nuclear stations.

Mr. Ahmad, 25, Asad Ansari, 25, and Steven Chand, 29, are charged with participating in a terrorist group. Mr. Ahmad is also charged with instructing people to carry out activities for a terrorist group and a weapons offence. Mr. Chand also faces a charge of counselling to commit fraud over $5,000 for the benefit of a terrorist group.

Mr. Shaikh said he told his RCMP handlers he was addicted to cocaine in December 2006 and they sent him to counselling. His drug use continued for several more months, until he decided that his recovery required a religious element, Mr. Shaikh said, adding he got clean on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

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