The SQ and other police forces say they've busted the biggest contraband tobacco running ring North America has seen to date.
Over 400 police officers fanned out across the Montreal region this morning, making arrests and conducting over 30 raids. They aim on making 35 arrests with 28 in custody so far. More arrests are possible as the investigation continues.
Investigators say they believe the Montreal Italian mafia was working with their Native counterparts, smuggling the contraband bulk tobacco from North Carolina across the border either through Lacolle or the native reserve of Akwesasne and then selling it to underground outlets in Kahnawake where the cigarettes were manufactured and sold.
"It was hidden with other merchandise, often what was used was cedar mulch to hide the tobacco. They crossed the border and the load was hidden for approximately two or three days to make sure it hadn't been spotted," SQ spokesperson Joyce Kemp said at a news conference held in conjunction with the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations.
Investigators say the split of the profits was 60%-40%, with the lion's share going to the mafia. Among those arrested was one of the alleged ringleaders, suspected mafioso Nicola Valvano. Police say they seized over 40,000 kg of tobacco worth an estimated $7-million on the black market as well as over $450,000 in cash.