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Record seizure of $11M of contraband tobacco and weapons nets four arrests

A special combined police unit in B.C. has uncovered what it deems to be the largest contraband tobacco seizure in B.C. history.

Four people have been arrested and released with criminal charges pending following a widespread seizure of $11 million worth of contraband tobacco plus firearms, drugs, vehicles and one speedboat police allege to be the assets of an organized crime network.

“This investigation resulted in the largest one-time seizure of contraband cigarettes in B.C.,” said Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC), a multi-jurisdiction police force specializing in organized crime.

The unit stated in a Feb. 13 news release it conducted seven search warrants on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 in Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey and Victoria, ultimately seizing:

  • 32 firearms, including handguns, assault rifles and shotguns;
  • a large quantity of ammunition;
  • body armour;
  • 10 pallets of contraband liquor;
  • 35 pallets of contraband cigarettes with a retail value of $11,000,000;
  • approximately a half kilogram of cocaine;
  • 80 kg of marijuana;
  • a hydraulic cocaine press and other drug paraphernalia consistent with drug trafficking;
  • eight vehicles, including a stolen Porsche Cayenne; and,
  • one speedboat.

Winpenny said the unit was tipped off to the network last August.

“The investigation quickly expanded to multiple jurisdictions around the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island and the investigators determined that the suspects involved were connected to gangs and organized crime,” police said.

While four people were arrested, they were released “pending the judicial process."

Winpenny added the media release "was intended to announce the results of the search warrants that were executed last month. Now the investigative team has to put together the disclosure package to Crown counsel who will review the material and decide on appropriate charges to lay."

The CFSEU is comprised of RCMP and municipal police units. 

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