Tobacco smuggling ring dismantled in Ontario, police say

Authorities say a large contraband tobacco smuggling and trafficking operation has been dismantled in southwestern Ontario. Suspects arrested are from Hamilton, Toronto, Aurora and Calgary.

Nine people are facing charges following a joint investigation

Nine people are facing charges following a joint investigation by Hamilton and Niagara area RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Finance. The investigation began in Hamilton, police say. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press )

The RCMP and Canadian Border Services have arrested nine people in connecting with a contraband tobacco smuggling and trafficking operation in southwestern Ontario.

The Hamilton-Niagara RCMP started its investigation with a local person and the probe quickly expanded into a wider investigation of an organization with sophisticated techniques. In a release, the RCMP alleges the ring was responsible for smuggling more than 66 tonnes of un-stamped water pipe tobacco into Canada since 2010. The smuggling means there were millions of dollars in unpaid  taxes and duties.

"This case shows that contraband tobacco is a significant problem in Canada and that Organized Crime groups are adapting their methods in response to increased enforcement efforts by the RCMP and its partners," says the RCMP in a press release.

There were two large seizures of the flavoured tobacco during the course of the investigation: 1440 kilograms of flavoured tobacco were seized at the Peace Bridge in July, 2011, with a similar sized shipment seized at the Queenston-Lewiston crossing in October, 2011.

"Contraband tobacco is a threat to the security and health of Canadian citizens," said Rick Comerford of the Canada Border Services Agency. 

Of the nine people facing charges including smuggling, making false declarations, sale and distribution of unstamped tobacco products and proceeds of crime,, four are from Hamilton, one from Calgary, three from Toronto and one from Aurora. They range in age from 26 to 64.

The investigation is continuing.


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