Manitoba Finance reports that two men received heavy financial penalties on June 21, after being convicted at trial of possession of non-Manitoba-marked cigarettes. One of the men also received jail time.
Rene Bigras of St. Constant, Que., was arrested in May 2009 after being stopped by RCMP and Manitoba Finance Special Investigations Unit personnel. He was charged under the Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act and the Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act, and the federal Excise Act (2001) with possession of 1.75 million unmarked cigarettes. Bigras was arrested again in March 2010 for possession of 600,000 unmarked cigarettes. He was charged under the same provincial and federal acts.
Found guilty of all charges for the 2009 arrest, Bigras was fined $3,000 and assessed a tax penalty of $971,333 under provincial legislation. He was fined another $297,525 under the federal legislation. Found guilty of all charges for the 2010 arrest, Bigras was fined $2,000 and assessed a tax penalty of $369,000 under provincial legislation. He was fined another $125,000 under the federal legislation, for a total of more than $1.75 million in penalties.
Carl Richard Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation was arrested in October 2008 after being stopped by RCMP and Manitoba Finance Special Investigations Unit personnel. He was charged under the Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act and the Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act, and the federal Excise Act (2001) with possession of 200,000 unmarked cigarettes.
Found guilty on all charges, Fontaine was handed a six-month jail sentence for each of the federal and provincial charges, to be served concurrently. He was also assessed a $105,000 tax penalty under the provincial legislation.
These convictions demonstrate the serious penalties that can be imposed on people who smuggle contraband tobacco products into Manitoba, the department said.
In Manitoba, it is also an offence to possess contraband tobacco. People purchasing and possessing contraband cigarettes can face charges under the Tobacco Tax Act including fines and an additional tax penalty of triple the outstanding amount. Individuals can be fined from $1,000 to $10,000, imprisoned for up to six months or face both penalties for a first offence.
Anyone with information on contraband tobacco is urged to contact local police, the Manitoba Finance Special Investigations Unit at 204-945-1137 in Winnipeg, the RCMP Customs and Excise Section at 204-983-5423 in Winnipeg, Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or the RCMP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.