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Chief of Montana First Nation suspended following cigarette seizure
Published Friday, January 7, 2011 6:06PM MST
The chief of Montana First Nation has been suspended after admitting her role in storing 14 million contraband cigarettes worth an estimated $7 million, were seized Thursday.
The cigarettes were found stored in a Quonset that belonged to the First Nation. Chief Carolyn Buffalo of the Montana First Nation did not deny that the cigarettes were in the possession of the First Nation.
Band members told CTV News Buffalo and band councillor Leonard Standingontheroad have both lost their roles with the band pending an investigation.
"I'll apologize as many times as I need to," said Buffalo. "The truth is we were trying to get our economy going because we have no money," said Buffalo.
On Thursday night, Buffalo and Standingontheroad took responsibility during an emergency meeting attended by about 100 band members. Buffalo told her community she believed she was entering into a legitimate business deal and that she called the RCMP after realizing that the tobacco they were storing was being stolen.
"I'm glad that it came out and I'm glad that she admitted it," said former band employee Kirby Strongman.
Both been suspended without pay.
"I want them to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," added Strongman.
Former chief Darrell Strongman now questions if the current chief lost any band money now that officers have taken away the cigarettes.
"I'd like to have that mistake clarified more," he said.
Three other band councillors are now trying to assist investigators.
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) is leading the investigation.
The AGLC says the cigarettes were not properly marked for legal sale in Alberta, which is in violation of the provincial Tobacco Tax Act.
The AGLC says penalties tied to the act could include fines of up to $20,000 and six months in jail for a first offence.
With files from Sean Amato
Fourteen million contraband cigarettes have recently been seized in the Ponoka area. Supplied.