RCMP seize illegal cigarettes in crime-ring raid
The federal and provincial governments lose $2 billion a year in tax revenue when people buy tax-free native cigarettes.
Published Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2:16PM ADT
RCMP in Halifax have seized a massive haul of illegal cigarettes after conducting a seven-month investigation into a cigarette-smuggling crime ring.
Police executed search warrants in four separate locations in the Halifax area and seized around 700,000 contraband cigarettes.
They arrested five local men: a 54-year-old Lower Sackville man, a 44-year-old Bedford man and three Dartmouth men, aged 56, 54 and 24.
Police allege the men are part of a criminal organization that was smuggling illegal cigarettes from Quebec to Nova Scotia, to be distributed throughout the Halifax area.
They face charges of conspiracy to possess unstamped tobacco, possession of unstamped tobacco, possession of tobacco on which tax has not been paid and possession of tobacco not bearing the prescribed markings.
The 54-year-old Dartmouth man faces an additional charge of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
All five were released on a promise to appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court on September 20.
A sixth man from Laval, Quebec was also arrested in connection to the raids. He appeared in Dartmouth Provincial Court on Friday, May 6.
Yahya Hamouche, 21, pleaded guilty to two charges under the provincial Revenue Act and the Excise Act. He was fined more than $450,000.
"Illegal tobacco is a large money-maker for organized criminal groups," RCMP Staff Sgt. Al Harding said in a statement released Tuesday.
Harding, the Border Integrity Coordinator for Nova Scotia, pointed out smuggling contraband cigarettes is not a victimless crime as it is often linked to organized crime.
"When people knowingly purchase or sell contraband tobacco they could be helping these types of criminal groups and often times the profits are used to finance drug trafficking, purchase illegal weapons, and fund other illicit activities."
Two pounds of marijuana, six vehicles and a quantity of cash were also seized in the raids.