From: Government of Manitoba

Manitoba Finance advises two individuals have been fined more than $2 million on charges related to the possession and sale of contraband tobacco.

Craig Blacksmith, the owner of asmoke shop at Dakota Plains First Nation and Tammy Walters, a shop employee, were fined on a number of charges stemming from a 2014 seizureby the RCMP and provincial taxation investigatorsof 951,225 non-Manitoba marked cigarettes, 1845 tins of chewing tobacco (snuff), six firearms, cash and one vehicle.

On June 16, 2016, Craig Blacksmith and Tammy Walters were each convicted of offences under the provincial Tobacco Tax Act and Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act.

Blacksmith faced two charges of possessing and selling non-Manitoba marked cigarettes and possessing and selling other tobacco products (snuff) under the provincial legislation.  He received fines totalling $8,500 and was assessed tax penalties totalling $1,159,845.60.

Walters faced similar charges under the provincial legislation.  Walters was fined a total of $6,500 and was assessed tax penalties totalling $868,009.20.

Each was given 10 years to pay the fines and penalties.

On January 22, 2014, a joint enforcement operation known as Project Debit was undertaken. Members of the RCMP Serious and Organized Crime Unit, RCMP officers from Portage la Prairie and provincial taxation investigators, with the assistance of the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, made a large seizure of contraband tobacco and firearms as well as several arrests at Dakota Plains First Nation, southwest of Portage la Prairie.

A search warrant was executed, and during the search of the property, 4800 cartons of cigarettes and three firearms were seized. During the search, police became aware of a rental locker paid for by Blacksmith.  When that was searched, further seizures were made, including two cases of tobacco and three more firearms.

By law, all cigarettes and tobacco must have a Health Canada warning along with a stamp indicating that the required duties and taxes have been paid.  Packages of cigarettes in Manitoba are required to display a stamp indicating taxes have been paid to the Manitoba government.

Manitoba taxes must also be paid on other tobacco products, such as chew, when imported into the province.  Millions of dollars that could fund social programs, education, employment programs and health care are lost when tax revenue to federal and provincial governments is not paid.

If you have any information on contraband tobacco, contact your local police department or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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