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Manitoba seizes 3.4M illegal smokes in smuggling investigation

Officials in Manitoba say six people are facing charges and more than 3.4 million illegal cigarettes were seized in a recent investigation into contraband tobacco being smuggled into the province. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

A contraband tobacco investigation has led to the largest seizure of illegal cigarettes from a single person in Manitoba’s history, the province says.

More than three million cigarettes were seized from one individual as part of the investigation dubbed Project Shrek, officials announced Thursday.

The operation looking into the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into Manitoba was led by the special investigations unit of Manitoba Finance’s compliance and enforcement division with help from police in Quebec, Ontario and Winnipeg.

Investigators say more illegal cigarettes were also confiscated from others, and in all, more than 3.4 million contraband smokes were seized.

Click to play video: 'Ten thousand illegal smokes seized from Thompson airport: Manitoba RCMP'
Ten thousand illegal smokes seized from Thompson airport: Manitoba RCMP

The confiscated cigarettes represent more than $1,027,844 in tax revenue to the province, officials said.

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Financial tax penalties stemming from the investigation could reach more than $4 million upon conviction, the province said.

In all, six adults are facing a variety of charges under the Tobacco Tax Act, the Tax Administration and Miscellaneous Taxes Act and the Criminal Code.

Three Winnipeg convenience stores are also facing charges and suspension of their retail tobacco licences as a result of the seizures.

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