Haudenosaunee men arrested for tobacco; charged with “organized crime”, “fraud”

SIX NATIONS — The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and Six Nations Police are refuting information released by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) this morning, claiming up to 60 arrests in “Aboriginal organized crime” on their territories.

SQ officials stated in a press release that Jason Hill, 38, of Ohsweken has been arrested on warrant and charged with “offences benefitting a criminal organization”, and “conspiracy to fraud”.

According to the press release by the SQ, others from Kahnawake arrested on warrant and also charged with organized crime and fraud are:

Todd Beauchamp,48, Kahnawakeproject-mygale-map

Derek White, 45, Kahnawake

Hunter Montour, 45, Kahnawake

Members of the SQ told Two Row Times that the remaining names will be released after they appear in court.

SQ said there were 700 officers involved in the international operation, labelled “Project MYGALE”, executed simultaneously on three continents; South America, North America and Europe.

The SQ stated significant tobacco seizures were made including over 52,800 kg of tobacco; totalling $13.5 million.

Officers also seized cash they say are the profits of organized crime; totalling over $1.5 million CDN and $3 million US.

Drug seizures were made as well: 836 kg of cocaine; 21 kg of methamphetamine; 100 g of fentanyl and 35 pounds of cannabis.

According to the SQ “documentary evidence” says between 2014-2016 the persons involved imported 2,085,600 kilograms of tobacco into Canada, which they say was done illegally.

SQ said this importation “represents a fraud of more than $530 million for the two levels of government”.

SQ could not confirm if these transfers of tobacco were done by indigenous people using traditional tobacco trade routes.

Both Kahnawake and Six Nations are in the late stages of developing their own tobacco trade laws. In theory, regulations would be in place to protect community members of those nations from these kinds of charges — however neither community’s law or infrastructures for compliancy are in place at this time.

A statement from the SQ on the arrests said all suspects were linked to “outlaw motorcycle gangs” and “organized crime Aboriginal”.

Despite the label “Aboriginal organized crime”, thus far only 4 of the 70 suspects have been identified as indigenous people.

In addition to the arrests, SQ said “70 searches took place in residences and shops, mainly located in the greater Montreal, the Laurentians, Lanaudière, Montérégie and on the Kahnawake and Six Nations, Ontario.”

SQ could not confirm to Two Row Times which homes or shops were raided, if they were from Haudenosaunee communities, or how many of the remaining arrests came from Kahnawake and Six Nations.

Although the SQ statement claimed the raid was executed at Six Nations and Kahnawake, officials from both Six Nations and Kahnawake clarified that none of the raids or arrests took place in their communities.

Six Nations Police officer Rocky Smith spoke with Two Row Times on the claim made by the SQ and clarified that there have been “no arrests, no raids, no nothing” on Six Nations of the Grand River.

UPDATE: 6:30pm – Six Nations Elected Council and the Six Nations Police released a joint statement on the inaccuracies released by the SQ and called for the SQ to issue a correction.

The joint statement said “The Elected Council and Six Nations Police would like to confirm that Six Nations of the Grand River was not involved in the searches conducted and that no arrests were made relating to contraband tobacco, by the Sûreté du Québec or any other law enforcement body, throughout the morning of Wednesday, March 30, 2016.”

Kahnawake Peacekeepers also issued a statement this morning, saying that, “NO searches or arrests took place on the Territory of Kahnawà:ke in relation to the SQ MYGALE tobacco investigation this morning.”

SQ later said via Twitter that suspects in Kahnawake surrendered voluntarily “through collaboration Peacekeepers” and that there was “no search in the community.”

SQ has was not able to confirm if any arrests were made on Six Nations, however they have not amended the earlier press release.

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