MONTREAL, Que. – Several truck drivers are among 13 people charged with smuggling large amounts of tobacco from the U.S. to Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency said Wednesday.
“The fraud strategies of this organization allegedly led to an estimated $450 million in lost tobacco duties and taxes,” the agency said.
The suspects are facing 15 charges including fraud upon the governments of Canada and Quebec, possession of unstamped tobacco products and conspiracy to move contraband tobacco.
The alleged leaders of the network, Martin Bessette and Eric Landry, are among the accused. The suspects are due to appear at the Longueuil Courthouse in Longueuil, Que., on Oct. 14.
The investigation, called Project Butane, started in 2018, the CBSA said.
It said the suspects are part of a criminal organization that imported contraband tobacco in bulk.
“The evidence collected during the investigation established that the organization had 88 loads of bulk tobacco brought in between Sept. 2, 2017, and May 27, 2019,” it said.
In all, 36,000 kilograms of tobacco was seized at border crossings in Quebec, the CBSA said. Three trucks were also seized.
“This type of activity harms Canada’s economy by encouraging the black market. All offenders are subject to sanctions and legal proceedings,” the agency said.