$110K fine for unmarked cigarettes

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A man who was caught with 12 cases of unmarked tobacco was fined more than $110,000 on Monday afternoon.

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This article was published 31/08/2021 (460 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A man who was caught with 12 cases of unmarked tobacco was fined more than $110,000 on Monday afternoon.

Russell Cornell pleaded guilty to possessing more than 25 units of unmarked tobacco.

His co-accused, who also appeared in court, entered into a one-year peace bond in exchange for Crown attorney Yaso Mathu staying the charge.

The incident started at approximately 3 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2020, Mathu told the court, when Brandon police stopped a van with an Alberta licence plate along the Trans-Canada Highway in Brandon.

When officers looked inside, they saw a number of large cardboard boxes in the cargo area of the van, which Mathu said was consistent with how unmarked tobacco is shipped.

Cornell was confirmed to be the driver.

Police opened one of the boxes and found contraband cigarettes of various brands within, she said. 

In total, there were 12 cases of cigarettes in the van, long with loose cartons, she said. In total, 126,600 smokes were seized by police.

“The province of Manitoba stood to lose $36,714 in tax revenue,” Mathu said.

“This kind of behaviour and action by transporting cigarettes results in great loss of income to the province and subsequently that of course flows own to begin a loss to the people in our province.”

Mathu recommended a $5,000 fine for the crime, along with the mandatory $110,142 fine laid out in legislation.

She said the court is mandated to impose a fine three times the value of the tax revenue the province stood to lose.

Cornell, who represented himself in court, said it was a bad mistake he made trying to make some money.

“I was out of work and I learned my lesson,” he said.

Judge Donovan Dvorak said the massive fine is meant to discourage people from reselling unstamped tobacco.

“Some may see (cigarette taxation) as a sort of sin tax or something like that, but the reality is we all know smoking cigarettes causes issues to people’s health and so in some sense the taxation of cigarettes goes toward the damage,” he said.

Dvorak also ordered Cornell to forfeit the cigarettes and van seized by police.

» dmay@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @DrewMay_

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