Monday, January 28, 2008

Smoke, smoke, smoke those cigarettes

A would be entrepreneur on a visiting container ship has found his sideline business is out of business, after local Border Services officers boarded the vessel and discovered a secret cache of 85 cartons of Double Happiness Chinese cigarettes.

While visiting crew members are allowed to bring in their own personal products while in transit, it would take a lot of convincing to explain away that many cigarettes as a personal and obviously lung damaging addiction.

Further investigation found more contraband in his personal quarters as well as some kind of magic overcoat used for smuggling.

While surely not the thing made famous by the likes of Crockett and Tubbs on Miami Vice, the investigation did go to show the capabilities of the local Border Services office and proved to be a valuable training exercise for the local members.

Full details on the investigation and the fate of the unlucky smuggler were in Friday's Daily News.

Border officers uncover smuggler's secret haul
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, January 25, 2008
Pages one and three

Canada Border Service Agency officers made an interesting discovery while conducting a search aboard a container ship early Wednesday morning.

In a void area of the ship, between a number of lighting holes that create space between the bulkheads, CBSA officers discovered 85 cartons of Double Happiness brand Chinese cigarettes that had been concealed there.

Officers determined which crew member was responsible, and, after searching his quarters, found another five cartons of cigarettes, nine 1.5 litre bottles of wine, and a coat that officers say was designed specifically for smuggling the goods ashore.

"In this case, what we found was the individual had taken this particular coat and sewn in pockets into the interior lining of the coat, in order to smuggle the cigarettes off the ship," said Trevor Baird, Canada Border Services Agency chief of operations.

"The pockets would allow him to carry multiple cartons at a time by breaking them down into individual packages, and carrying them on and off the boats."

After the seizure of was conducted, the crew member was turned back over to the vessel and it will be up to the authorities onboard to decide what to do with the individual.

Baird said that, due to the size of the companies owning and operating these vessels, it is impossible for them to know what their crew members are doing all the time, and it isn't uncommon for crew members to be engaged in various types of smuggling.

"Although a serious seizure from our perspective, it didn't meet the threshold that we would prosecute," said Baird.

"In cases like this, we wouldn't hold it against the company because there was no evidence to suggest the company was involved, it was strictly an isolated incident with a crew member."
Baird said that tobacco smuggling is generally done to avoid paying the tax that is applied to cigarettes in Canada, and that it can be profitable for an individual bringing them illegally into the country and selling them at a high profit margin.

"Ultimately, we believe the individual was bringing tobacco, in this case from China, and selling it in the communities where the vessel docked, not only Prince Rupert," said Baird.

"Vessels themselves have a right to have liquor and tobacco on board for the use of their crew, however in this case it was a very clearly smuggling operation. The goods were concealed very deeply in the vessel, they were very hard to access, and the crew member had gone through a lot of effort to hide them."

Although not a particularly groundbreaking seizure, Baird believes the incident is a good example of the training and focus CBSA officers have in detecting smugglers and the success they have in thwarting them.

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