Canada cheese-smuggling ring busted - policeman charged
A Canadian police officer was among three people charged as the country's authorities announced they had busted a major cheese-smuggling ring.
A joint US-Canadian investigation found C$200,000 (£125,600) of cheese and other products were illicitly brought over the border into southern Ontario.
The smugglers sold large quantities of cheese, which is cheaper in the US, to restaurants, it is alleged.
The other two men charged were civilians, one a former police officer.
The Niagara Regional Police (NRP) announced the charges in a news release on Thursday.
Constable Scott Heron, 39, a member of the NRP, faces counts of conspiracy, smuggling and other violations of customs law.
End Quote Pizzeria owner Niagara Falls
We get all our stuff legit”
Casey Langelaan, 48, a former member of the police force, and Bernie Pollino, 44, a resident of Fort Erie, face the same charges.
In their statement, Niagara police said an investigation had been ongoing since January 2012. Mr Heron was suspended from the police force in June.
"The network involved the purchasing of cases of cheese and other food items and transporting these cases into Canada, without declaring the items or paying duty," police said.
Once the cases arrived the country, they were distributed to restaurants in southern Ontario.
The accused allegedly made a profit of over C$165,000.
The charges come three days after CBC News first reported the force was conducting an internal investigation into cheese smuggling.
A pizzeria owner west of Niagara Falls told CBC that he had been questioned by police over the issue, but assured them he had not bought any contraband dairy.
"We get all our stuff legit," said the restaurateur. "We thought it was a joke at first. Who is going to go around trying to sell smuggled cheese?"
Only C$20 or 20kg (44lb) of dairy products can be brought into Canada duty free, according to Canadian Border Services Agency spokeswoman Jean D'Amelio Swyer.
Civil penalties for smuggling can amount to 245.5% the value of the product.
Canadian cheese prices are higher because of restrictions by the country's dairy board, as well as tight controls on US imports of cheaper cheese.