RCMP-led investigation seizes more than 2.3 million contraband
cigarettes along with guns and drugs
CORNWALL, ON, June 21, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, the National Coalition
Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) commended the Cornwall Regional
taskforce for breaking up a significant contraband tobacco smuggling
operation. Led by the RCMP, Project O-Titan saw the seizure of more than 2.3 million illegal cigarettes, more than
100 pounds of marijuana, $52,000 in cash, as well as a number of guns,
vehicles, and boats. 37 people from around Ontario, Quebec and
Akwesasne were arrested during the bust.
"Once again, the diligent work of the RCMP and other law enforcement
agencies has paid dividends and a substantial amount of contraband
tobacco is off the streets," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the
Toronto Police service and spokesperson for the NCACT. "However, the
volume of illegal drugs and weapons seized as part of this raid is a
troubling reminder of the very real connection between contraband
cigarettes and organized crime."
There is a strong connection between organized crime and the
manufacturing and sale of contraband cigarettes. Tobacco sold illegally
is the cash cow of organized crime and finances the activities -
including drugs, guns, and human trafficking - of more than 175
criminal gangs. In Canada, there are more than 50 illegal cigarette
manufacturing facilities and more than 300 smoke shacks operating
outside of any government regulation.
"It's bad enough that criminals are allowed to profit by way of this
illegal distribution system," continued Grant. "But illegal cigarettes
work directly against larger tobacco control efforts. They are a key
source of youth smoking, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
has found that contraband tobacco's easy availability is one of the
reasons why youth smoking rates have remained relatively high."
This bust also reinforces the cross-border nature of contraband tobacco
smuggling. In the Cornwall area, illegal cigarettes manufactured in the
United States are smuggled into Canada and are then distributed
throughout the rest of the country- the NCACT has dubbed this the
"contraband trail." The location of the Canada-US border crossing
within the city of Cornwall has proven to be an effective limit to this
smuggling. Currently, the federal government is considering moving the
crossing to Massena, New York. The NCACT strongly urges the federal
government to re-think this move, as it make the lives of cigarette
smugglers much easier.
"Busts like this are good news, but represent just a small portion of
the overall contraband tobacco that is smuggled into our communities.
It is critical for government to take action against contraband
cigarettes," continued Grant. "Without continued meaningful action,
this problem will only get worse."
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy
group formed with the participation of businesses, organizations and
individuals concerned about the growing danger of contraband
cigarettes. NCACT members share the goals of working together to
educate people and urge government to take quick action to stop this
The members of the NCACT include: Canadian Convenience Stores
Association (CCSA), Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Taxpayers
Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, National
Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Canadian Chamber
of Commerce, Frontier Duty Free Association, Flue-Cured Tobacco
Growers, Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Conseil
du Patronat du Québec (CPQ), l'Association des marchands dépanneurs et
épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Toronto Crime Stoppers, National Citizen's
coalition, and The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU).
SOURCE: National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco
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