Smugglers using Seadoos to transport illegal product from French islands

Paul Herridge editor@southerngazette.ca
Published on November 3, 2009

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.

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."