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 growing threat.
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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