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The Globe and Mail

Nine charged in major Ontario tobacco smuggling ring

Authorities say a large contraband tobacco smuggling and trafficking operation has been dismantled in southwestern Ontario.

It's alleged the ring was responsible for smuggling more than 66 tonnes of unstamped water pipe tobacco into Canada since 2010.

Nine people are facing charges following a joint investigation by Hamilton and Niagara area RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

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Police say the investigation began in 2011 into a local individual suspected of smuggling unstamped water pipe tobacco for local distribution.

But as the investigation went on, they say a larger organization was uncovered that reached beyond the Hamilton area.

It's alleged the network used sophisticated methods to conceal their smuggled products and hide their operation and police say the volume of tobacco smuggled means millions of dollars in duties and taxes were not paid.

During the investigation, authorities say border officers made two large seizures of flavoured tobacco: one at the Peace Bridge in July 2011, in which 1,440 kilograms of flavoured tobacco were seized, and another at the Queenston Bridge in October 2011, when a similar amount was seized.

"Contraband tobacco is a threat to the security and health of Canadian citizens," said Rick Comerford of the Canada Border Services Agency. "People need to be aware that if they purchase contraband tobacco, they are funding criminal activity."

Facing numerous charges including smuggling, making false declarations, sale and distribution of unstamped tobacco products and proceeds of crime are: Walid Bakhit, 34, of Calgary, Sameer Kfouf, 49, Dina Bakhit, 39, and Houda Bakhit, 64, all of Downsview, Ont., Nashwan Namrood, 54, of Aurora, Ont., and Salti Kafouf, 66, Layla Kafouf, 63, Mariam Kafouf, 34, and Marleen Kafouf, 26, all of Hamilton.

The investigation is continuing, authorities say.

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