An estimated $2.5 million dollars (weighing 3,039 kilograms) of contraband waterpipe (shisha) tobacco and contraband cigarettes were seized following a joint investigation by Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis’ (AGLC) Investigations Branch and the Alberta Sheriffs.
The total potential lost tax revenue is estimated to be more than $972,000.
The seizure took place at a storage locker facility in central Edmonton.
Imad Assi, Ibrahim Al-Sabbag and Mahmud Al-Sabbag were each charged with trafficking in contraband tobacco contrary to section 121.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. All three are scheduled to appear in Edmonton Provincial Court on April 17, 2019.
Contraband tobacco: is any tobacco product that does not comply with federal and provincial laws related to importation, marking, manufacturing, stamping and payment of duties and taxes; comes from four main sources: illegal manufacturers, counterfeits, tax-exempt diversions and resale of stolen legal tobacco; and can be recognized by the absence of a red (Alberta) or peach/light tan (Canada) stamp bearing the “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ” on packages of cigarettes and cigars or pouches of tobacco.
In addition to lost revenues that may otherwise benefit Albertans, illegally manufactured products also pose public health and safety risks. Safeguards are in place for consumers that purchase federally regulated and inspected products.
All wholesalers and importers of tobacco into Alberta must be licensed to sell or import tobacco for resale. Furthermore, all tobacco products must be labelled according to federal and provincial regulations. Albertans who suspect illegal tobacco production, packaging and/or trafficking are encouraged to contact AGLC’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit at 1-800-577-2522.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding with Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, AGLC enforces the Tobacco Tax Act and conducts criminal investigations of contraband smuggling. In 2017-18, provincial revenue from tobacco taxes was $907 million.