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 originally stated in a press release that Jason Hill, 38, of Ohsweken was arrested on warrant and charged with “Offences benefitting a criminal organization”, and “conspiracy to fraud”.
However a later statement from the SQ said that Hill was not in custody and is still being sought by police.
According to a press release by the SQ, others from Kahnawake arrested on warrant and also charged with organized crime and fraud are: Todd Beauchamp,48; Derek White, 45; and Hunter Montour, 45, all of Kahnawake Territory.
Members of the SQ told Two Row Times that the remaining names will be released after they appear in court.
In total, 56 individuals were arrested and 21 people were interviewed by investigators.
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.
Tobacco, cash and drugs seized
The SQ stated significant tobacco seizures were made including more than 52,800 kg of tobacco; totalling $13.5 million.
Officers also seized cash they say are the profits of organized crime; totalling more than $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 kg of tobacco into Canada at Fort Erie, 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 four of the 70 suspects have been identified as indigenous people.
In addition to the arrests, SQ said “Seventy 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.
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.
Kahnawake Peacekeepers issued a statement 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 searches done in the community.
Taxation the real issue
Chief Gina Deer of Kahnawake spoke to Kahnawake Television reporters in a video posted to YouTube about the arrests and said this is a matter of taxation and not organized crime.
Deer said Canada views the indigenous tobacco trade as lost revenue but stated that First Nations communities do not collect taxes for foreign governments.
The day following the SQ announcement of an international organized crime bust on “illegal tobacco”, a report for the MacDonald-Laurier Institute was released saying the indigenous tobacco trade funds global terrorism.
According to the report’s author, Christian Leuprecht, “The networks used by tobacco smugglers can move everything from marijuana to human beings, and the proceeds go right back into these dangerous operations. Globally, money from contraband tobacco has found its way to the likes of ISIS, al Qaeda and Hezbollah.”
Leuprecht also said, “Contraband has a more pervasive impact on public safety on Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests than terrorism has ever had.
It has drawn hardened Mafioso and criminal bikers into native communities and coaxed legitimate farmers into diverting crops to the illicit market.”
One of the accused, Derek White, spoke with Kahnawake’s Eastern Door newspaper about the alleged link between global terrorism, drug trafficking and the indigenous tobacco trade and said all his charges were tobacco related.
White told the Eastern Door, “I have nothing to do with drugs, or ISIS or terrorism…I have nothing to do with that shit, absolutely zero. They want their tax money, that’s all.”
White told Eastern Door he has no links to the drug trade.
White said to the Eastern Door, “All it has to do with is with tobacco, it has nothing to do with any of the other stuff they’re making up.”