Canadian law enforcement officials announced a record-breaking operation against a cross-border tobacco and drug trafficking ring on March 30. Operation Mygale saw more than 700 law enforcement officers on three continents – North America, South America and Europe – target motorcycle club members in the Montreal area and associates across the continents, according to Surete du Quebec (SQ), provincial police force for Quebec.
The criminal charges relate in part to illegally importing at least 158 shipments totaling over 2 million kilograms of tobacco, resulting in a tax loss to Canada of more than $530 million (Cdn).
Allegedly included in the criminal organization is Derek White, 45, a Mohawk from the Kahnawake Territory south of Montreal, Quebec. White made headlines in 2015, when he became the first Native driver/owner to participate in a NASCAR race. Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau of the SQ told NBC Sports that White is believed to have been a high-ranking member of the operation. Multiple news reports said White surrendered to police March 30 after learning that there was a warrant out for his arrest. He was charged with seven offenses, including profiteering as a criminal organization, three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, and three counts of fraud toward the government. According to The Eastern Door newspaper, White stated that the charges against him are only related to tobacco offenses and that he has been released on $20,000 (Cdn) bail.
Taskforce officers in Quebec and Ontario launched search and arrest operations in the early morning hours of March 30. Preliminary reports alleged that raids took place in Kahnawake and Six Nations, Onystio. Those reports were denied by the elected Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, as well as the local Peacekeepers police agency. More than 60 suspects were in custody by the end of the day, including some, like White who turned themselves in after the 70 police searches were completed.
The Montreal Gazette reports the police allege that the criminal organization would import tobacco to Canada from North Carolina, while shipping drugs from Montreal to Detroit and from South America to the U.S.; along with laundering money in Europe. There have been no reports from American or European law enforcement agencies connected to this effort.
According to APTN, White was under surveillance as a law enforcement target since at least 2006, based on files received from the RCMP’s Aboriginal Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. APTN also reports that White was identified by police, but never charged, during the lead-up to Operation Cancun in 2008, which targeted Mohawk-based marijuana smuggling in the border-straddling community.
CTV News Montreal reported that the alleged head of the smuggling ring, Sylvain Ethier, 40, was arrested in Ste. Therese, Montreal and that Hunter Montour, 45, and Todd Beauchamp, 48, both of Kahnawake, were also arrested.
Seizure amounts related to Operation Mygale provided by Canadian law enforcement agencies:
Over $13.5 million (Cdn) in tobacco.
Over $1.5 million (Cdn) related to illicit transactions in Canada.
More than $3 million in U.S. currency.
1,800 pounds of cocaine.
46 pounds of methamphetamine.
35 pounds of marijuana.