Nearly three million contraband cigarettes seized by Canadian and U.S. authorities

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On Friday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) seized 1.75 million contraband cigarettes near the Manitoba - Ontario border and in a separate case the New York City Police Department (NYPD) also had a major recovery of 1.17 million cigarettes.

Image: Geierunited.

Canadian officers seized 150 cases of illegal, unmarked cigarettes, as well as 25 cases of "discount" brand cigarettes during a traffic safety check conducted during National Road Safety Week on the Trans Canada Highway.

The NYPD pulled over a U-Haul truck for a traffic violation, a covered license plate and recovered 58,500 packs of untaxed contraband cigarettes.

"It's an ongoing problem as the price of cigarettes go up. Obviously, it increases the motivation to go to other states to buy them and bring them back here. We enforce the law in that regard," said a NYPD Police Commissioner.

"Discount brands of cigarettes ... come from countries such as, not only the United States, but India, Native American tribes, the Philippines, Colombia, Mexico and other countries around the globe," said a representative from the American State Auditor’s Office.

Bootleggers, nicknamed the $5 man, are the new entrepreneurs when taxed cigarettes sell for over US$10 a pack and nearly $100 a carton in some places in the U.S.

Customers satisfying a nicotine addiction provide a hefty income for illegal tobacco traders. The illicit smuggling of tobacco results in thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue to governments. In Manitoba's bust, it's estimated that nearly CA$325,000 (US$275,000)are lost in tax revenue from illegal cigarette sales.

On Wednesday, 90,000 contraband cigarettes were seized from Lithuanian travellers at the Dublin Ireland airport. On Monday, in a separate case, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) seized unmarked cigarettes from a Manitoba man for the second time. This time police recovered 160,000 cigarettes. One week ago smugglers hid 3,000 cases of illegal cigarettes in concrete to try to get them through customs in Singapore.

In April American officials shut down a warehouse containing about US20 million dollars in illegal cigarettes.