MONTREAL – The Sûreté du Québec, the police force known throughout indigenous Canada as the force whose violent raid initiated the “Oka Crisis” of 1990, carried out a massive raid in Montreal, Akwesasne and Kahnawake territories today against what they claim as “contraband” tobacco.
More than 400 police officers were mobilized in what the SQ is calling “the biggest and most important investigation into contraband tobacco” in North American history.
According to a press release issued by the SQ, 28 arrests were made, and 35 arrest warrants issued in partnership with an investigation involving both Canadian and U.S. authorities involved in monitoring tobacco. Reports from the SQ said that the value of the raw tobacco they seized was approximately $7 million, but that the calculated value of what they are calling “tax fraud” is estimated at $30 million.
A listing of the accused obtained by the Two Row Times includes the following residents of Haudenosaune territories charged with Fraud over $5000 and Conspiracy:
Anthony Jr. David 49 – Akwesasne
Tracy-Ann David-Doggett, 47-Akwesasne
Fallon David, 31 – Akwesasne
Alexander Christopher Thompson, 26 – Akwesasne
David Kyle Bennedict, 36 – Akwesasne
Davery Bauersfeld, 52 – Kahnawake
Kanentiio Ross, 36 – Kahnawake
Michael Rossetti, 50 – Kahnawake
Four of the accused from Akwesasne are additionally charged with “comissioning an offense for organized crime” – which according to the Criminal Code of Canada is considered an act “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization” and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
Reportedly another person named who was arrested in the raids is Nicola Valvano, an alleged member of the Italian Mafia in Montreal. According to the statement from the SQ this was an organized network which imported tobacco from South Carolina through Akwesasne thereby denying the Canadian and Quebec governments millions of dollars in tax revenue.
The press release from the SQ today also notes that $450,000 was seized from illegal transactions, 40,000 kg of tobacco was also seized, along with 1300 cannabis plants. It is unclear and unknown at what location these items were recovered as the raid on this network occurred across various locations.
The conservative government has been working to establish changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, making unstamped tobacco a federal crime with minimum jail time. The Bill, labelled the Contraband Tobacco Act or Bill C-10, is seeking to criminalize the tobacco trade in indigenous communities under the umbrella of public safety and tax evasion – often making associations between organized crime and the sale of unstamped tobacco, which is referred to by the government as contraband.
Coincidentally, this afternoon a press release was also issued by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, warning the federal government that an increase in tobacco tax in Ontario would fund organized crime. According to the statement from the NCACT it’s members are: Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADA), Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), Customs and Immigration Union, Échec au crime Québec, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA), National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Retail Council of Canada and Toronto Crime Stoppers.