Monday, May 5, 2014

Huge tobacco bust includes farmers, brokers

Police have seized huge volumes of black-market tobacco in raids in Southwestern Ontario that are likely to continue.

Police said they are continuing to look for more after they seized a tractor-trailer load worth about $300,000 and charged several farmers and brokers.

As the probe went on, RCMP said, “it was determined that various growers and brokers were involved in the illegal sale of large amounts of raw leaf tobacco as well as finished tobacco products.”
Further charges and arrests are expected, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Richard Rollings said Friday.
RCMP aren’t yet naming any of those who have already been arrested, charged and released for later court dates, but Rollings said the list includes some “legitimate tobacco growers… (and) some legitimate tobacco brokers.”
Seizures related to the probe include “large amounts” of raw leaf tobacco, valued at over $300,000, including a tractor-trailer load by itself valued at between $200,000 and $300,000 — plus individual pallets of tobacco worth an estimated $2,500 to $3,500 each at black-market values, he said.
The tobacco, in the form of cigarettes, would have been worth up to $9 million and would have garnered about $3.5 million in taxes.
Also seized were six trucks and a tractor, car, boat, snowmobile and motorcycle, plus $85,000 cash, 45 shotguns, more than 60 kg of marijuana, 950 marijuana plants, two bricks of hashish and “small amounts” of cocaine, ketamine and MDMA (ecstasy), RCMP said.

It’s not the first time that Ontario tobacco growers have been charged with smuggling tobacco into the Montreal area. A previous raid caught some members of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Marketing Board which used the evidence police gathered to discipline them.