Following two investigations into the sale of contraband cigarettes, members of the Manitoba Finance Taxation Special Investigations Unit and the RCMP have seized 1,176,600 contraband cigarettes.
On Oct. 2, at approximately 4 p.m., the RCMP conducted a traffic stop on a westbound vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway, three kilometres east of Richer. Following a discussion with the driver, officers conducted a search of the vehicle. The search uncovered 488,800 illegal cigarettes, as well as 149 1.75-litre bottles of non-duty paid alcohol.
RCMP arrested Jason Michael Rondeau, a 37-year-old male from Thunder Bay, Ont. The individual is facing charges under the Criminal Code of Canada for trafficking contraband tobacco and alcohol, as well as The Excise Act, The Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act, and The Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act.
On Oct. 27, Manitoba Finance investigators approached three male subjects in a Winnipeg back lane who were in the process of transferring boxes clearly identifiable as contraband cigarettes from a business location into a vehicle.
The investigators seized the cigarettes because they were not marked for Manitoba tax purposes. In total, 687,800 cigarettes were seized along with $3,000 in cash.
Currently, three men face charges under The Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act and The Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act including possession of non-Manitoba marked tobacco and wilful evasion of paying Manitoba tobacco tax.
Manitoba stood to lose $347,097 in tax revenue if these cigarettes had been sold. If convicted, the individuals face fines between $1,000 and $10,000 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment. In addition, they will face a mandatory triple tax penalty of $432,588 for the Oct. 2 seizure and $608,703 for the Oct. 27 seizure.
The province urges anyone who has information on contraband tobacco to contact their local police department, call the Manitoba Finance Special Investigations Unit at 204-945-1137, email email@example.com or call Manitoba Crime Stoppers (toll-free) at 1 800 222 TIPS (8477).