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Convenience stores charged with illegal tobacco sales

For Immediate Release: 12-Apr-2024 @ 12:00 PM
MRU #: 24R030

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) have charged four northeast Edmonton convenience stores in relation to the sale of illegal tobacco.

In January of 2024, EPS Northeast Beats officers initiated an investigation into the sale of illicit tobacco occurring at convenience stores in the 118 Avenue area. Beats officers had been hearing concerns regarding illicit tobacco sales from law-abiding business owners in the area.

Contraband tobacco:

  • is any tobacco product that does not comply with federal and provincial laws related to importation, marking, manufacturing, stamping and payment of duties and taxes;
  • comes from four main sources: illegal manufacturers, counterfeits, tax-exempt diversions and resale of stolen legal tobacco; and
  • can be recognized by the absence of a red (Alberta) or peach/light tan (Canada) stamp bearing the “DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ” on packages of cigarettes and cigars or pouches of tobacco.

By February, with the assistance of AGLC’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit, police confirmed that contraband tobacco was being sold by four convenience stores located along 118 Avenue: 7 Days Convenience at 41 Street, Classic Corner at 46 Street, Sihem Market at 79 Street and Classic Mini Mart at 87 Street.

A search warrant was executed on Feb. 9, 2024 at all four locations, and police seized $24,810 in contraband tobacco, equaling more than $27,000 in tax avoidance. Products seized include 399 cartons of cigarettes, 142 individual packs of cigarettes, 120 cigars and seven boxes of loose tobacco.

Illicit tobacco seizure

Million Tewelde, 25, Ermias Gebrehiwet, 36, and Biniyam Adhanom, 34, owners of 7 Days Convenience, were charged with trafficking contraband tobacco and fraud under $5,000. Semhar Kafil, 33, owner of Classic Corner and Classic Mini Mart was charged with trafficking contraband tobacco and fraud over $5,000. The owner of Sihem Market was issued a violation ticket under the Tobacco Tax Act.

“In addition to the public health and safety risks due to the lack of regulatory controls and inspections oversight, contraband tobacco also negatively impacts the dollars that go towards everyday projects and services Albertans rely on. AGLC will continue to work with our law enforcement partners throughout Alberta to combat illicit tobacco,” says Gary Peck, Vice President, Regulatory Services, AGLC.

“Local businesses play a significant role in community safety and security, and they are often the first to notice suspicious activity,” says Cst. Justin Marleau, with EPS’ Northeast Beats. “In this case, the business community helped identify widespread illicit tobacco sales that were negatively affecting the area.”

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For media inquiries please contact the EPS Media Relations Unit at mediarelations@edmontonpolice.ca.