Smugglers using Seadoos to transport illegal product from French islands

Paul Herridge
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Smugglers on the Burin Peninsula are using Seadoos to transport contraband alcohol from St. Pierre and Miquelon. Cst. Phonce Foley of the RCMP's Customs and Excise Unit in Burin indicated police had received "bits and pieces of information" over the summer and into the fall personal watercraft had been employed to make liquor runs to the French islands.

The RCMPs patrol vessel Murray is among the tools at the disposal of the Customs and Excise Unit in Burin to combat smugglers, who police indicate have took up using Seadoos to transport contraband from St. Pierre and Miquelon. Photo Submitted

Smugglers on the Burin Peninsula are using Seadoos to transport contraband alcohol from St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Constable Phonce Foley of the RCMP's Customs and Excise Unit in Burin indicated police had received "bits and pieces of information" over the summer and into the fall personal watercraft had been employed to make liquor runs to the French islands.

However, he acknowledged they just recently became more confident in the accuracy of the reports.

Cst. Foley noted the method might make the approximately 18-kilometre trip quicker, but it certainly isn't safe.

"Should something go wrong, you take if an engine went in a boat, at least you've got a boat. If you're out there on this little machine and you have engine problems, and the weather turns bad on you pretty quick, you can find yourself in pretty bad straits in short order."

He indicated that's always a risk, given the unpredictability of weather in the region, which he himself has witnessed.

Cst. Foley suggested - by his own best estimation - the smugglers fill two bags with liquor bottles, then they "tie a rope between them and throw them over the seat, like a set of saddle bags, and go that way."

He acknowledged smugglers are always looking for means of staying one step ahead of police.

He identified the RCMP's patrol vessel 'Murray', as one means of pushing back. He noted police also conduct regular land patrols. Still, he confirmed smuggling continues to be problem on the Burin Peninsula, although certainly not as much as it used to be.

"It's still an issue. There's still a loss of revenue for the province because of contraband coming across from St. Pierre.

"Not only is it a loss of revenue to the province, but it's a loss of revenue to businesses here on the peninsula - at the Liqour Store in Marystown and there's some outlets in some of the smaller communities around the boot of the peninsula. They feel the loss of revenue, as well, in those stores."

Cst. Foley indicated the battle continues to evolve.

"Technology is certainly of assistance to them, as well. I'd bet dollars-to-donut that when those guys are making these runs on these Seadoos, they're going with hand-held cell phones and hand-held GPSs, as well, in case the weather shuts down."

He indicated the new development raises concerns for police, and not just on the enforcement level, which he noted becomes almost secondary to safety. He pointed out no one wants to see anyone die as a result.

"That would be the ultimate worst thing and a tragedy - that someone would have to lose their life on a Seadoo because they're going over for a few bottles of liquor. That would be just tragic."

Organizations: RCMP, Liqour Store

Geographic location: French islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Burin Marystown

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Recent comments

  • George
    July 08, 2010 - 13:14

    Smuggling from St. Pierre has gone on for generations. Why, you could even say it's part of the culture, like drinking and moose-hunting from your pickup truck. LOL

  • Brad
    July 08, 2010 - 13:14

    It is just like the war against Marijuana, it never stops anything. People find better ways of smuggling, and even more of our tax dollars are wasted to find a few bottles of booze. What a complete and utter waste of money. If they think the smuggling isn't as bad as it was then they have their heads in the clouds. I can get cigarettes and booze from St. Pierre easier now than before they had that expensive waste of taxpayers money of a patrol boat. You make something idiot proof, and someone builds a better idiot. Stop wasting our tax dollars and go after some child molestors, or murderers.

  • LOTTEE
    July 08, 2010 - 13:14

    It's all the hype eh? It's been going on for years ... and will continue ... liquor and tobacco purchased from Canada ... and then our folks travel across the water to the French islands to get it at a decent value.Why is it we can buy from the French for much much less than we can in our own country? Yet, they purchased it from Canada to begin with ... C'mon people, where's the sense and sensibility ... If the government lifted some of the imposed taxes and tariffs ... Canadians would shop within Canada ... crickey we are not brain dead by any stretch of the imagination. The mainland another prime example ... government puts smokes up so that they are not afforable ... and people drive all over to any indian reserve they can find, and buy them for half of what they get them at a store for. It's the cycle ... save a dollar spend a dollar. When the government decides not to tax the asses of the people ... things MIGHT be a little better.

  • mike
    July 08, 2010 - 13:14

    My,My,My ... What a bumper load that will be for the Mounties ... a pack of smokes and a bottle of Bailey's that I had for the misses for Christmas ... ha ha ha. Do they really believe a smuggler would go bootlegging on a seadoo? How would the quanity of contraband actually smuggled justify the dollar amount and life risk that smuggling on a sea doo would bring. For the love of god by'es stop the foolishness. The Mounties are some desperate to keep that partrol vessel on the boot ... what a waste. Goverment will never stop bootlegging. Can't wait to get me stuff for Christmas ... but I'll have to wait for the price of gas to go down before I can take my Seadoo out of storage and fit her out with radar and a GPS before I make the trip to Saint Pierre ... Ha, ha. What a bunch of fools.