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Contraband cigarette trial starts

A former chief of the Montana Cree First Nation and one other man are now on trial in connection with the seizure of 16 million contraband cigarettes just over three years ago.

Former chief Carolyn Buffalo and Robbie Dickson, president of the Quebec-based Rainbow Tobacco Co., were among four people arrested after an investigation by the Alberta Gaming and Lottery Commission.

The AGLC alleges that the cigarettes, which were not marked for legal sale in Alberta, were seized on Jan. 5, 2011, from a building on the reserve.

Buffalo, 47 and Dickson, 40, were charged under the Alberta Tobacco Tax Act with illegally possessing and storing contraband cigarettes.

A press release issued at the time of the seizure estimates that the cigarettes represented $3 million in tax revenue that would have been lost to the province.

Their trial opened in Wetaskiwin provincial court on Monday and is scheduled for nine weeks.

The Rainbow Tobacco Co. is a general partnership located in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal.

A news story published on the company’s website states that Montana was the first step in an ambitious plan by Rainbow Tobacco to expand its current on-reserve market in Ontario and “conquer” the on-reserve cigarette market in the West.

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