Following a six-week joint agency investigation involving the Manitoba Finance Taxation Special Services Investigations Unit and Brandon Police Service Major Crime Section, a large quantity of illegal tobacco was seized.
Brandon polie say on April 23, 2021, members intercepted a shipment of illicit cigarettes in the RM of Whitehead. Five men were taken into custody. Three vehicles and three trailers were seized and warrants to search these vehicles were acted on April 27, 2021.
92 cases of unmarked contraband tobacco cigarettes were seized. Within each case are 10,000 cigarettes. Also seized was over 53 pounds of illicit marijuana and over $25,000 in cash.
Five males were arrested, ranging in ages from 46-60 years-old. Four of them are residents of Brandon, with the fifth male being from Gilbert Plains.
They were each charged under section 121.1(1) of the Criminal code; Possession of Unauthorized stamped Tobacco and section 80(2) (a) of the Tax Administrative and Miscellaneous Taxes Act; Possess greater than 25 Units of Unmarked Tobacco. The male from Gilbert Plains was also charged with section 9(2) of the Cannabis Act; Possession for the Purpose of Distributing as well as Possession of Proceeds of Crime under Section 235(1) of the Criminal code. They were released from custody and will all be appearing in court in July 2021.
Ron Bell, a supervisor with the Taxations Special Investigations Unit, said at a news conference Wednesday "The cigarettes that were seized represent a $274,000 loss in revenue to Manitoba" and "the individuals charged...face upon conviction triple tax penalties that are equal to $823,000."
A convenience store in Brandon was also charged for selling some of the illegal cigarettes, but no other information was released. The seized tobacco came from Six Nations, a First Nations community just outside of Hamilton, Ontario.
Bell also said "It’s important for people to understand that these cigarettes are not cigarettes that you can buy here in Manitoba under any circumstance. They’re not legal for sale, they’re not manufactured at a legal manufacturing facility, so you don’t know what you’re buying. You could be buying stuff made in somebody’s garage with tobacco droppings that have been swept off the floor. Tobacco is already bad for you, it’s not healthy. These are even worse because there’s no control."
(Image - Brandon Police Service)
The marijuana seized came in the form of both pre-rolled joints and flower bud, and will eventually be destroyed.