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Trucker fined for trying to smuggle cheese into Canada (with video)

Cheddar was among the 8,880 pounds of cheese that a trucker tried to smuggle into Canada. Photo: Canada Border Services Agency

A trucker must pay a fine of C$30,000 for attempting to smuggle nearly 8,800 pounds of cheese from the U.S. into Canada.

Haissam Azaar was fined the equivalent of $22,000 on May 9 after pleading guilty to the thwarted attempt to bring the eight skids of undeclared cheese through the Landsdowne, Ontario crossing, near northern New York. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers found the cheese during a secondary inspection and subsequently arrested Azaar.

The CBSA announced the case on May 27, highlighting Canada’s long-standing issue with lower-price cheese being smuggled into the country.

“Seizures like this serve as a reminder of the vital role CBSA officers play in preventing risks to Canada’s food safety as well as contributing to Canada’s economic security,” said Darren Frank, director of the CBSA’s St. Lawrence district.

Cheese prices can be dramatically higher in Canada than the U.S. The tightly regulated dairy market operates under a supply management system, which keeps prices inflated by limiting production and imposing limits on imports. Cheese above annual quotas is subject to 270 percent tariffs.

Prosecutions for cheese-smuggling are relatively rare, though not unheard of. A Canadian police officer in Niagara Falls received a four-month jail sentence for his role in a large-scale smuggling ring that brought low-cost cheese from the U.S. across the border to be resold locally   – especially at pizzerias.

The U.S. has long bemoaned the supply management system, which also covers poultry, saying it unfairly denies its producers access to the Canadian market. NAFTA’s successor, United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, foresees allowing more imports of U.S. and Mexican dairy products into Canada.

Canada’s powerful dairy industry has long resisted efforts to open up the market, arguing that domestic producers could be undercut by foreign competition, particularly the U.S.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]