January 28, 2015 6:06 pm
Updated: January 28, 2015 6:29 pm

Halifax convenience stores searched, 12 charged with illegal wholesale of cigarettes

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HALIFAX – RCMP have charged 12 people following a contraband tobacco bust that involved Halifax-area convenience stores.

Officers searched five retail stores earlier this month and seized 74 cartons, as well as the wrappers of 93 other cartons. RCMP say their investigation began in September 2014 and led them to Bridgeview Grocery on Bedford Highway.

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“The individual that was selling the tobacco to the retailers — he had larger discounts from wholesalers where he was acquiring the tobacco and he was sharing the profits with those retailers,” said Bernie Meagher, director of audit and enfocement with Service Nova Scotia.

“This undermines the whole regulatory regime so it’s unfair to the other retailers who play by the rules, who are properly licensed and only deal with licensed wholesalers.”

RCMP allege Bridgeview Grocery was illegally selling the cigarettes to other stores in Halifax while making a large profit.

“This individual would buy the tobacco wholesale then sell it to another person and then that person would again sell it.” said Insp. Glenn Lambe with the RCMP’s federal and serious organized crime unit.

“There’s no record of that second sale so then there’s no recourse or there’s no onus on them to pay their taxes.”

Nobody at Bridgeview Grocery wanted to comment.

But some named in the investigation for buying the cigarettes are speaking out.

The owner of Cobequid Convenience, Mohamed Al-Showaiter, says he didn’t realize what he did was contrary to the Revenue Act and that he has paid all the taxes. He also told Global News he feels the situation has been overblown and misinterpreted, especially when it comes to the term “contraband.”

Contraband tobacco is defined by law as any tobacco that doesn’t comply with all federal and provincial laws. According to the RCMP media release, that includes laws governing importation, stamping, marking, manufacturing, taxes and duties.

“In this particular case, it’s not the typical contraband tobacco that’s not stamped properly or bagged properly. In this particular case it’s product that’s bought by an individual who then sells it to other individuals without licenses,” said Meagher.

Meanwhile, the owner of Israel Grocery on Almon Street, George Israel, told Global News he is upset and shocked by the charges. He says he borrowed four or five cartons of cigarettes from Bridgeview Grocery once when his shipment was late. However, he maintains no money was exchanged.

“I’m really surprised,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it.”

But RCMP told reporters all of those charged knew they were purchasing contraband cigarettes.

The investigation continues and will involve the Canada Revenue Agency since income and sales tax figures will be factored into the case.

The people charged are:

1) Akram Karam, 54, Halifax
Bridgeview Grocery
– 33 charges of section 39(3) of Revenue Act -Sale of Contraband Tobacco
– Two charges of section 78(3) of the Revenue Act Regulations

2) Nadia Karam, 44, Halifax
Bridgeview Grocery
– 11 charges of section 39(3) of Revenue Act -Sale of Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 78(3) of the Revenue Act Regulations

3) Caroline Collins, 53, Middle Sackville
Villa Plaza Kwik Way
– Four charges of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– Four charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 39 (2) of Revenue Act – Possession of Contraband Tobacco

4) Sang Ho Back, 42, Halifax
Kim’s Convenience
– 17 charges of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– 17 charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 39 (2) of Revenue Act – Possession of Contraband Tobacco

5) Mohammed Al-Showaiter, 30, Bedford
Cobequid Convenience
– One charge of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 39 (2) of Revenue Act – Possession of Contraband Tobacco

6) Vijay Agnihotr, 57, Halifax
Jebaily’s and Cook’s Convenience
– Two charges of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– Two charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco

7) George Israel, 60, Halifax
Israel Grocery
– One charge of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco

8) Hossein Ghaderi, 23, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nova Grocery
– Two charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– Two charges of section 78(1) of the Revenue Act Regulations

9) Verinder Chopra, 57, Halifax
Bluenose Convenience
– One charge of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 39 (2) of Revenue Act – Possession of Contraband Tobacco

10) Sonia Chopra, 50, Halifax
Bluenose Convenience
– Two charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– Two charges of section 78(1) of the Revenue Act Regulations

11) Ali Ghaderi, 21, Dartmouth
SNAXX Convenience
– Two charges of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco
– Two charges of section 78(1) of the Revenue Act Regulations

12) Mingyan Zhu, 30, Halifax
Olivet Grocery
– One charge of section 39(2) of Revenue Act – Purchase of Contraband Tobacco
– One charge of section 40 of Revenue Act – Transporting Contraband Tobacco

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