SHERBROOKE and GRANBY, Que. — Two drivers and one trucking company are facing charges for smuggling nearly 30,000 kg of tobacco across the US-Canada border in two separate incidents.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) made the first seizure in late September when Eric Landry, a driver based in Sainte-Martine, Que., was crossing at Stanstead Highway 55. According to a CBSA report, while inspecting the trailer, border services officers "discovered that it was full of boxes emitting a strong tobacco smell," resulting in officers impounding 14,775 kg of loose tobacco in 132 boxes.
CBSA says, "Not declaring this tobacco means that an amount of more than $1.6 million in federal duties and taxes was attempted to be evaded."
Yesterday, Landry appeared in court in Sherbrooke on charges under the Customs Act of making false or deceptive statements to a border services officer, and attempting to smuggle into Canada goods that are subject to duties or for which importation is prohibited, controlled or regulated.
A very similar incident also took place in late November, when JeanFrançois Beaulieu, a resident of Saint–Césaire, Que., crossed Armand/Philipsburg with his tractor-trailer. Once again, "border services officers discovered that the trailer was in fact full of boxes emitting a strong tobacco smell," which led to the seizure of 14,369 kg loose tobacco, also packed into 132 boxes. CBSA calculates that the taxes and duties value of this shipment was also $1.6 million.
Yesterday, in a Granby, Que. court, charges were laid against Beauliea, and his company Transport Jean-François Beaulieu. They are accused of making false or deceptive statements to a border services officer, attempting to evade lawfully payable duties and taxes, and attempting to smuggle into Canada goods that are subject to duties or for which importation is prohibited, controlled or regulated. They are also facing charges under the 2001 Excise Act of possessing unstamped tobacco products.
According to Benoît Chiquette, regional director-general of the CBSA, Quebec Region, there are multiple reasons why the agency takes tobacco smuggling seriously.
“Besides posing a threat to public health, the illicit tobacco market is very attractive to organized crime. Border services officers and CBSA investigators work tirelessly to disrupt criminal activities associated with the illicit tobacco trade.”