Today's Bootleggers Duck Canada Taxes, Sneak Liquor North

Article excerpt

In a reversal of the Roaring '20s, today's bootleggers are running booze from the U.S. to Canada.

The motive: Canada's high alcoholic beverage tax.

In federal court in Baltimore last month, a Maryland liquor store owner was sentenced for his role in an international smuggling ring.

"It's becoming a big problem," said M. Stewart Allen, special agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Maryland and Delaware.

Taxes on Canadian liquor are so high - 83 percent on each bottle - that consumers there have trouble affording it.

The U.S. tax is 42 percent, making smuggled American liquor a hot item on the Canadian black market. In the United States, a 750 milliliter bottle of Gordon's vodka costs $6.49. In Canada, it's $19.50.

A case of six 1.7-liter bottles of bottom-shelf liquor costing as little as $30 in the United States can fetch $100 per case on Canada's black market. The same case costs $200 on the legal market in Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say it's not so easy catching the bootleggers of the '90s. Too many people are plying the bootlegging business. Each year, smugglers make an estimated $500 million profit.

"Even if we stationed someone every hundred yards along the border, they will still get it across," said Sgt. Gilles Duguay, supervisor of an anti-smuggling task force for the Mounties in Ontario.

Today's bootleggers start in places such as Maryland and Virginia. …

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