Ontario, Canada - illegal cigarettes are everywhere..

August 6, 2009 - Royal Canada Mounted Police (RCMP) seized 1.8 million cigarettes -- 9,000 cartons -- from a South London, Ontario storage facility and charge a suspect after being tipped off by city police investigating a report of a suspicious person.

As politicians pointed fingers about the widespread sale of illegal cigarettes, police in London were tallying one of the largest-ever seizures of contraband in the city. The arrest and seizure were made Sunday, August 2nd two days before Ontario Progressive Conservative critic Toby Barrett accused the provincial Liberal government of ignoring illegal cigarette sales and allowing tax evasion. Barrett's attack was fueled by an increase in illegal smoke shacks in the Caledonia area of his riding, which he said the province and police have failed to close. "We see the police taking very little action, whether it be national police, provincial, or Six Nations police," said Barrett. "When they do take action, they are confronted by these people and have to back down." Barrett: 'Half the people in Ontario are not paying taxes when they purchase their cigarettes.'

If convicted, the accused could face a minimum fine of 17 cents per cigarette and a maximum of 25 cents per cigarette, or a total maximum of $450,000.

The illicit tobacco market directly decreases government revenue for health and social programs by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Ontario smokers pay a provincial tax of 2.65 cents per cigarette, or just more than $5 per carton, which means Sunday's seizure could have represented a tax loss of about $47,700. The federal tax of $1.01 per pack means Ottawa's coffers would have been out $90,900.

Ontario's auditor general said in December the province missed out on $500 million in lost tobacco taxes, and he blamed a lack of political will to deal with the issue.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has blamed the federal government, saying a large part of the problem is centred on aboriginal reserves that are Ottawa's responsibility.

Reference: Bad smokes snuffed Authorities seize 1.8 million cigarettes -- 9,000 cartons -- from a south London storage facility and charge a suspect by JOE BELANGER, London Free Press, 8/6/2009.

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Click on image to enlarge, RCMP handout photo..



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