Well now we must thank the Montréal Police Department. They have successfully rounded up the criminals who…sell illicit cigars?
The Montreal Gazette reports that over 200 officers were used to “tap” the information network that supplies the trade of “contraband” cigars from across the country:
MONTREAL – Two contraband cigarillo and cigar rings dismantled by police Wednesday morning – in an sweep using more than 200 officers – were diverting an estimated $5.2 million a year of tobacco taxes from Quebec-government hands, reporters were told at an afternoon news conference at Montreal police headquarters.
That foregone provincial tobacco-tax revenue is a “very conservative” estimate – and the rings appear to have been operating for “several years,” said Commander Yves Miron, head of the police squad that fights the underground economy on Montreal Island.
The probe showed the rings operated separately, but maintained “business links” and coordinated operations with each other, he added.
A total of 17 individuals were arrested during 52 raids conducted in Montreal, Laval, Lachenaie, Pincourt and Victoriaville. The suspects were to be questioned and then released on conditions for later appearances in court.
I’m not sure about the majority of people out there, but I am glad that my government is cracking down on people selling cigars that the government doesn’t want people to sell. I’m glad that public funds can go to locking up legitimate businesspeople for selling a product that WAS perfectly legal and is NOW, by government decree, considered an illegal substance to sell or purchase. This has been passed by the Conservative government for the sake of the “children”, as has been claimed by earlier attempts to pass this law.
The sales were conducted through 22 corner stores across Montreal Island, Miron said.
Although the individual operators of these dépanneurs were not detained, each will be pursued by Revenue Québec for bypassing the provincial tobacco-tax law, Miron said.
They are likely to each face a fine of $3,000 as well as orders to repay tobacco taxes evaded, plus penalties.
These operators were fully aware they were bypassing the provincial level of the tobacco-tax system, Miron said.
They replenished some of their inventories using legitimate suppliers, he said, a tactic that allowed them to have valid paperwork such as invoices on hand to show any curious inspectors.
This was the first significant crackdown on the illegal flavoured-cigarette trade in Montreal police history, said Inspector Bernard Lamothe, who heads the Montreal police organized-crime unit.
Again, the reason that government and police are cracking down on these cigars is because they run in the illicit economy. Instead of being taxed by government, a free market has emerged which, peacefully and without force, has allowed many satisfied customers and users of tobacco to receive competitive deals and great products.
If a market becomes too regulated and over-burdened, then it is only natural that another market shall emerge where consumers and sellers, not government bureaucrats, can decide what is good and what is bad by their own opportunity costs. The incentives created by the market cannot be eclipsed in the slightest by government intervention, something we have seen in all aspects of trade and markets since the early days of free-market capitalism.
The idea that public money is spent on cracking down and regulating a certain product can only bring to mind failed images of alcohol prohibition, where private gangs are created to police contraband transactions instead of legal courts and established legal systems.
The fact that certain disputes cannot be brought through the court system is a major reason for violence in the illicit economy, something often overlooked by eager politicians and powerful competing business interests.
With the history of the temperance movement in mind, it is important to recognize that the farther we can move from regulating certain products because of populist, purist emotions, the freer and more just a society we can create and maintain.