Police breakup Mob and Mohawk-run tobacco smuggling ring

Lieutenant Guy Lapointe of the Sûreté du Québec, shows a sample of the contraband tobacco seized...

Lieutenant Guy Lapointe of the Sûreté du Québec, shows a sample of the contraband tobacco seized during the searches. (MAXIME DELAND / QMI AGENCY)

Brian Gray, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

MONTREAL -- Police say they have arrested at least 28 people and broken up a $30-million Mob- and Mohawk-run contraband tobacco ring.

It's the "largest investigation of contraband tobacco ever undertaken in North America," according to Quebec provincial police.

About 400 police officers raided more than two dozen locations Wednesday in Montreal and near the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve that straddles Ontario, Quebec and New York State.

Quebec provincial police Insp. Michel Pelletier said police had 35 arrest warrants. Nicola Valvano, who police say is a member of the Montreal Mafia, is among those in custody.

"The stratagem consisted of buying large quantities of tobacco from North Carolina and bringing it here through the importation of legal products by shell companies," Pelletier told a news conference.

Some of the tobacco was smuggled through Lacolle, Que., one of the busiest Canada-U.S. border crossings. Other contraband was brought in through Akwesasne, a popular corridor for smugglers due to its international geography.

The contraband was shipped to "illicit factories" in Kahnawake, Que., another Mohawk reserve on Montreal's south shore.

Pelletier said police carried out 32 search warrants at bars, restaurants and home as part of an investigation that began in September 2012.

They seized 40,000 kilos of tobacco, nearly $450,000 in cash and about 1,300 marijuana plants and a 9mm pistol.

The suspects face charges of gangsterism, fraud and weapons trafficking."‹

Quebec police started their probe following a tip from the U.S. Homeland Security department.

Canada Border Services, the RCMP and local police forces also took part in Wednesday's raids.


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