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Montréal, June 28, 2011 –This morning, some 120 police officers are taking part in a operation in Châteauguay, Laval and Longueuil. The purpose of this operation is to put an end to the illegal activities of a huge tobacco smuggling network. The investigators managed to target the leader of this network directly as well as his associates. Warrants were issued against a total of six individuals and nine searches are currently being conducted in residences and businesses. Approximately fifty vehicles, including luxury and classic cars, were seized in a Châteauguay warehouse.
The RCMP Customs and Excise Section initiated Project CASTELNAU in July 2009. The investigation revealed that John Stacey, a Châteauguay resident, was the leader of a criminal organization engaged in the illegal distribution and sale of tobacco products. The group operated mainly from the Kahnawake Aboriginal territory and the city of Châteauguay.
The investigation shed light on the various criminal activities of the organization and the scope of its network. John Stacey owned smoke shacks on the Kahnawake and Kitigan Zibi Aboriginal territories. These businesses, called Kahnawake Tobacco Manufacturing (KTM), were mainly supplied from Akwesasne. The tobacco products were then illegally distributed to other Aboriginal territories in Québec and New Brunswick.
Investigators of the Integrated Proceeds of Crime Unit (IPOC) also took part in investigating the illegal activities of the group leader. Stacey is suspected of laundering money through various companies. This component of Project CASTELNAU showed that his assets were purchased with money coming mainly from the sale of illegal tobacco.
In addition to the many vehicles seized as proceeds of crime and offence-related property, Stacey’s residence is the subject of a restraint order as well as three bank accounts in his name in different financial institutions.
In the course of the investigation, the officers seized 208 cases of illegal cigarettes, for a total of over 2 million illegal cigarettes.
The following suspects will appear in court to face charges of conspiracy and laundering proceeds of crime under the Criminal Code, as well as possession and sale of unstamped tobacco products under the Excise Act, 2001.
The RCMP was assisted by various partners in this investigation, including the Sûreté du Québec, the municipal police services of Châteauguay, Laval and Longueuil as well as Canada Border Services Agency. The investigation continues to find out more about this network.
In an effort to reduce demand, the RCMP and its partners use various methods to raise public awareness of the consequences of buying contraband tobacco products. The illicit tobacco trade presents a serious and growing threat to public safety and health in Canada. People need to be aware that they are funding criminal activity when they purchase contraband tobacco products.The RCMP and its partners will continue their efforts to disrupt criminal organizations by dismantling their infrastructure and undermining their ability to use our communities to engage in criminal activity.