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Man convicted in Vancouver, Richmond contraband tobacco case

Investigators found almost 3.5 million cigarettes after executing search warrants. The federal tax duty payable on such an amount would be around $1.4 million, the court heard.
Investigators found almost 700 half-cases of cigarettes — or 3.5 million cigarettes.

A B.C man has been convicted on charges that he possessed, transported and made for sale contraband tobacco in 2018 and 2019.

Vancouver provincial court Judge Harbans Dhillon convicted Yung Fung on the charges May 31 after a five-day trial.

The judge said she had little confidence Fung told the truth in his testimony.

“Mr. Fung’s testimony would change almost within seconds,” she said.

The charges came after a B.C. Ministry of Finance investigation into the sale of contraband cigarettes uncovered boxes of contraband cigarettes in a residential garage in Vancouver and in the hold of an abandoned U-Haul van.

More boxes were located in a metal cargo container in Richmond, Dhillon said.

It’s illegal to possess, sell or have possession of tobacco in excess of one kilogram that does not bear the prescribed mark or stamp and/or to transport in excess of 50 cartons of cigarettes unless that person has the required authorization to do so. 

Further, Dhillon said Fung accepted that tobacco manufacturers must pay federal tax on tobacco before the tobacco product enters the Canadian market.

And, tobacco products cannot be legally sold in B.C. unless each package of cigarettes is marked with the British Columbia tax stamp.

The investigation

Dhillon said the ministry began an investigation into the importation and distribution of illegal tobacco products in Metro Vancouver after a tip from Ontario Provincial Police that large quantities of illegal tobacco products were being shipped from Ontario to British Columbia.

“Investigators were able to pinpoint the delivery location to a freight forwarding and shipping business located in Richmond,” Dhillon said. “The business identified an individual named Cong Ton Tran as the named consignee receiving the suspected shipments.”

Between Aug. 20, 2018 and Jan. 23, 2019, the transport company received 33 shipments consistent with over 80 skids of contraband cigarettes, Dhillon said. The typical shipping pattern appeared to be delivery of one to two skids from Ontario to B.C. one to two times per week.

The transport company allowed storage of shipments in an adjacent warehouse, which was put under surveillance.

Investigators saw pallets containing boxes consistent in appearance with half-cases of contraband cigarettes; the cargo was transported in a van to Vancouver, including to a Ward Street garage.

Investigators also had a tracking device on the van.

Police also saw a U-Haul van go from Richmond to Vancouver and saw Fung repeatedly driving it or in the cargo hold.

Fung told the court he believed the boxes contained plates and eating utensils like those found in Chinese restaurants.

“There is no evidence indicating that Mr. Fung delivered the boxes directly to any restaurants or business premises of any kind,” Dhillon said.

Search warrants for the Ward Street garage, Richmond cargo container and U-Haul van were obtained and executed.

Investigators found almost 700 half-cases of cigarettes — or 3.5 million cigarettes. The federal tax duty payable on such an amount would be almost $1.39 million, Dhillon said.