June 24th, 2024

Local business owner fined for selling untaxed Tobacco

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 11, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge business owner has received a hefty fine for selling black market cigarettes from his grocery store.

Alam Al Huda Hasaballah was fined $5,200 Thursday in Lethbridge provincial court, after he pleaded guilty to a single charge of unlawfully selling, transporting, delivering or distributing untaxed tobacco products from his store, Alam’s Supermarket on 13 Street North.

Crown Prosecutor Clayton Giles told court the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission learned earlier in the year that Hasaballah was selling black market cigarettes from his store. Authorities began an investigation and purchased packs of cigarettes, which had not been tagged to show taxes had been paid on them.

Authorities bought the cigarettes for $5 which, with taxes, would normally cost $12-$15.

Police searched the supermarket, as well as Hasaballah’s residence and vehicles and seized 47 cartons of contraband cigarettes, 44 individual packs of cigarettes, and eight tubs of 250-gram packages of contraband tobacco. The tobacco, Giles pointed out, had not been taxed and is not approved for sale in Canada. Police also seized about $880 and “African-sourced” chewing tobacco.

“None of those materials had tax-paid indicators on them, because tax had, in fact, not been paid on these items,” Giles said. “Somehow they had been imported into the country, and it was relatively clear Mr. Hasaballah had taken it upon himself to distribute these on a commercial basis through his supermarket.”

Hasaballah, 44, was fined $4,000 and levied an additional $1,200 victim surcharge.

Lethbridge lawyer Darcy Shurtz said Hasaballah, who has four children and is expecting a fifth, came to Canada from Sudan in 2001 as a refugee and has been a Canadian citizen since 2005. He noted Hasaballah does not have any previous criminal convictions and he is remorseful for his actions.

Judge Erin Olsen told Hasaballah he received a relatively significant fine because the fine should not simply be considered a cost of doing business illegally.

“For someone like you to be part of a scheme like this, you have a high degree of responsibility,” Olsen said. “It takes planning, connections, there’s ongoing hiding of the breaking of the law, and there’s knowledge the whole time that what you’re doing is illegal. So that’s a high degree of responsibility, and a large fine should reflect that, as well.”

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Thanks for coming to Canada! You’re given a great opportunity and you take a dump on it. Nice.