June 19th, 2024

Lethbridge businessman jailed for selling blackmarket tobacco, again

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 25, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge business owner who was fined in 2022 for selling black market cigarettes from his grocery store, has received a jail sentence for committing the same crime again.
Alam Al Huda Hasaballah pleaded guilty Thursday in Lethbridge court of justice to a charge of fraud over $5,000 and was sentenced to three months in jail, which he will serve intermittently Monday through Wednesday every week until he has completed his sentence.
Following reports that Hasaballah was selling contraband cigarettes from Alam’s Supermarket on 13 Street North, authorities conducted an investigation between Nov. 25, 2022 – the same month he was previously fined – and June 22, 2023.
“They then sent an undercover person to try to make a purchase of the contraband tobacco, and that was successful,” Crown Prosecutor Robert Morrison told court.
Although investigators didn’t find any contraband tobacco during a search of Hasaballah’s home, they found a large amount tobacco and a contraband tobacco-like product in a locked closet at the store. Authorities seized 252 cartons of cigarettes, 10 packs of smokeless tobacco and 179 tubs of shisha, a tobacco-like substance that is typically smoked out of a water pipe or hookah.
Morrison said all of the tobacco products were missing the stamps to indicate provincial or federal taxes had been paid before they were delivered to the store. About $32,457 in provincial taxes, $15,837 in federal excise taxes, and $2,407 in GST were not paid.
Morrison noted that in light of his last conviction, Hasaballah would have known it was illegal to sell the untaxed tobacco products.
On Nov. 10, 2022 Hasaballah pleaded guilty to a single charge of unlawfully selling, transporting, delivering or distributing untaxed tobacco products from his store. He was fined $4,000 and levied an additional $1,200 victim fine surcharge.
the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission learned earlier in the year that Hassaballah was selling black market cigarettes, and they went to the store and bought the cigarettes for $5 which, with taxes, would normally cost $12-$15. Police seized 47 cartons of contraband cigarettes, 44 individual packs of cigarettes, and eight tubs of 250-gram packages of contraband tobacco.
Hasaballah’s spouse, Areeg Gamereldeen, was also charged in relation to the newer offence, but Morrison said there was no indication she knew her husband was selling contraband tobacco from the store, and her charge was withdrawn.
Lethbridge lawyer Vincent Guinan explained that even though his client was making a profit from the tobacco sales, he sent the money to family members in Sudan.
“I’m advised that they were desperate, in dire straits,” Guinan said, adding that despite Hasaballah’s previous conviction, he felt obliged to help his family.
Justice Jerry LeGrandeur agreed with the joint recommendation from the Crown and defence for an intermittent 90-day jail sentence, and noted authorities will be keeping an eye on Hasaballah and his business.
“He must realize, they were watching before, they’ll continue to watch him, and obviously another incidence will be much more significant for him, depending upon the circumstances of course,” LeGrandeur said.

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