The Okanagan seems to be a haven for trafficking illegal cigarettes after more than 1.5 million were seized by RCMP in the region, since the start of the year.
In January, 1.5 million contraband cigarettes were seized by North Okanagan RCMP in Vernon. Then in May, West Kelowna RCMP seized 30,310 packs of cigarettes, along with illegal cannabis, weapons, cash, and money-counting machines.
Police believe those involved with illegal cigarettes are part of a sophisticated trafficking operation. In the last year, law enforcement agencies seized more than five million illegal cigarettes in B.C.
Due to this growing trend, the issue of contraband cigarettes and organized crime will be the focus of a training conference for Crime Stoppers personnel on May 5 to 7 in Kelowna.
Segments of the conference will highlight the links of contraband tobacco to organized crime throughout the province. Experts from across Canada with extensive knowledge of the connection of contraband tobacco to organized crime are set to speak at the event.
Weldon LeBlanc, Crime Stoppers executive director said their focus is to increase public awareness of the connection of contraband tobacco to organized crime and, to disrupt the manufacturing and distribution of illegal tobacco.
“We are asking retailers and members of the public to call Crime Stoppers anonymously if they see anyone selling contraband tobacco,” “All people have to do is call 1-800-222-8477. Every call to Crime Stoppers is anonymous, and the tips will be forwarded on to investigators,” he said.
For further information contact LeBlanc at weldon@BCCrimeStoppers.com.