MONTREAL – Police have seized 8,000 bottles of Kosher wine that they say was being sold illegally out of the basement of a synagogue in Côte-des-Neiges.
Police removed 650 cases of wine from the basement of the Young Israel synagogue on Hillsdale Road on Thursday night.
“We can say two men were interviewed,” said Montreal police spokesman André Leclerc.
“That implies they may be charged with an infraction related to illegally importing alcohol.”
Police started a surveillance operation on the synagogue several weeks ago after a local resident complained that someone was operating an illegal wine store out of the basement.
“I believe the origin [of the wine] is from Israel,” Leclerc said.
One of the members of the congregation said the community has embraced what he described as a family-run wine store.
“She was importing from Israel and California and Australia and that is why people like to come,” Reiss said.
“There is not a big Kosher selection at SAQ [stores].”
The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) controls all wine sales throughout the province. Anyone wanting to sell wine in Quebec — be it in a dépanneur, a grocery store or even a vineyard — must first obtain a permit from the SAQ.
A spokesman said people can import wine privately, but taxes must be paid to the Crown corporation.
Otherwise, it’s considered bootlegging.
This is not the first time police have cracked down on private kosher wine sales.
Six years ago, Montreal police seized more than 900 litres of wine from an Outremont synagogue that had been purchased in Ontario.
Sill, Reiss believes the police acted a little harshly.
“They always seem like they are coming down hard,” Reiss said.
“Maybe they could have done it in a nicer way, maybe they did not have to take it all.”
Montreal police said charges are pending against the two men they interviewed at the synagogue, but confirmed it’s more likely they will face fines for selling alcohol without a permit.