Contraband tobacco bust also seizes guns and drugs
OTTAWA, March 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) was pleased with the recent contraband tobacco bust by Sûreté du Québec in Godmanchester, commenting that it reinforces the value of the firm action taken against illegal cigarettes in the province's recent budget. Yesterday, 250 police officers were involved in raids that saw 23 arrests and the seizure of 35 guns, $140,000 in cash, 900,000 illegal cigarettes, and 110 kilograms of marijuana.
"With this bust and Tuesday's budget, the Quebec government continues to demonstrate that it is taking the illegal cigarettes problem seriously," said Gary Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police service and spokesperson for the NCACT. "This budget's commitment to providing police and municipalities with more resources and tools will allow for more investigations like today, helping to curb a problem that funds organized crime, facilitates youth smoking, and is a massive tax loss for government."
Quebec's budget included an additional $3 million a year to municipal police forces to fund their operations against neighbourhood cigarette smuggling networks. This will more than triple the number of police teams in place working on this matter. Similarly, the government will give more powers to municipalities to fight contraband tobacco, including allowing them to initiate prosecutions in municipal courts for contraband infractions targeting retailers. Municipalities will also be able to keep the fines and costs collected from these proceedings.
"Contraband tobacco is a serious problem in Quebec," continued Grant. "Illegal cigarettes' low cost and easy availability make them a prime source for youth smoking. It's also a key funder of organized crime, with the RCMP estimating that more than 175 criminal gangs use the proceeds of illegal tobacco to finance their other illicit activities, including guns, drugs, and human smuggling. Quebec knows all-too-well about the dangers that well-funded gangs can bring."
The budget also rightly identifies contraband tobacco as a major revenue loss for the government. The budget estimates that the province of Quebec lost $225 million in taxes to illegal cigarettes in 2010, and governments across Canada collectively lose $2.1 billion annually.
"Quebec is looking to reduce its revenue losses to tax evaders, and illegal cigarettes are a great place to start. Already, more than a third of the tax recovery from last year was from the government's anti-contraband efforts," concluded Grant. "But, as we saw yesterday, fighting illegal cigarettes is about more than collecting taxes: it means making it harder for some of society's least desirable elements to finance their activities, and it also means keeping youth away from smoking. That's a real win for Quebec."
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, The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU), the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
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