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AGLC investigations net two of the largest contraband tobacco seizures in Alberta history

Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis recently concluded several investigations, which netted two of the largest contraband tobacco seizures in Alberta history.   

The combined total of the contraband tobacco seized was 154,800 cartons of contraband cigarettes or 30.7 million individual cigarettes. These seizures are a result of the work conducted by AGLC’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit with the assistance of provincial law enforcement agencies. 

In a January 2024 investigation, approximately 43,500 cartons or 8.7 million individual cigarettes were seized. This equates to $7 million in retail value with a provincial tax avoidance of $2.4 million.  

In April of 2024, 60 wrapped pallets were seized from a warehouse setting netting a total of 111,300 cartons of contraband cigarettes or 22 million individual cigarettes, which equates to over $18 million in retail value with a provincial tax avoidance of $6.6 million. 

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According to AGLC, criminal charges are pending in both cases. 

“These are significant contraband tobacco investigations involving individuals part of organized networks whose proceeds defraud Albertans millions of dollars in tax revenue. AGLC will continue to work with our partners to investigate and disrupt the individuals and organizations involved in these illegal activities, as part of our commitment to a strong contraband tobacco enforcement program in Alberta,” says Gary Peck, vice-president of AGLC Regulatory Services. 

Over the last nine months, AGLC’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit has seized an estimated 35 million contraband cigarettes from across the province. The total potential lost tax revenue is estimated to be more than $10.1 million. 

AGLC says contraband tobacco is any tobacco product that does not comply with federal and provincial laws related to importation, marking, manufacturing, stamping and payment of duties and taxes and can be recognized by the absence of a red (Alberta) or peach/light tan (Canada) stamp bearing the “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ” on packages of cigarettes, cigars or pouches of tobacco. 

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In addition to lost revenues that may otherwise benefit Albertans, illegally manufactured products also pose public health and safety risks, as they lack regulatory controls and inspections oversight. 

Albertans who suspect illegal tobacco production, packaging and/or trafficking are encouraged to contact AGLC’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit at 1-800-577-2522 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). 

Under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, AGLC enforces the Tobacco Tax Act and conducts criminal investigations related to the possession, distribution and trafficking of contraband tobacco products. In 2022-23, provincial revenue from tobacco taxes was approximately $522 million. 

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