Allegations of cheese smuggling by police

Published On September 24, 2012 | By HN Staff | News

Niagara police officers may be under investigation again, but this time it’s not allegations of steroid trafficking.

Cheese in the United States is sometimes 1/3 the price of cheese in Canada.

Cheese in the United States is sometimes 1/3 the price of cheese in Canada. COURTESY THE RED SPOON – FLICKR

By Claire McCormack

A CBC investigative report was released Sept. 24 about a unique sort of illicit trade — cheese smuggling.

The report claims cheese is being smuggled into Canada from the United States and at least some of it is being done by Niagara Region police officers.

“CBC News has learned from numerous police sources that charges are expected soon against a few officers who are alleged to have been involved in the movement of caseloads of cheese from the U.S. to sell to Canadian pizzerias and restaurants.”

Derek Watson, spokesman for the Niagara Regional police, told Humber News he “could not deny nor confirm any ongoing investigation.”

No officers have been charged with smuggling cheese so far, but the CBC report alleges the charges will be laid in the near future.

“If an officer were to be charged, a media release would be sent out,” Watson said.

In April, Niagara Regional officer Geoff Purdie was suspended on charges of smuggling anabolic steroids into Canada.

Tony Zappitelli, owner of Zappi’s Pizza in Niagara, told Humber News he has been approached in the past by people wanting to sell him illegal mozzarella.

“We did see it before,” Zappitelli said. “I decided to go to the border and ask questions about doing it legally and they said ‘No, no, no.’”

He then tried to go direct to the U.S. supplier.

“I called the cheese manufacturers there and they said. ‘No, we can’t deal with you,’” he said. Zappitelli said the wholesale prices for food differ greatly between Canada and the U.S.

“My cousin has a pizzeria in the United States the same size as mine. We do the same numbers every night. He pays $9.00 for a brick of cheese, I pay $30.00. He charges $12.50 for a pizza, I charge $12.50 for a pizza,” Zappitelli said, pointing out the difference in profit margins.

“The temptation is huge, but you’re in business. You have to do what you do. You can’t mess around with things like that,” Zappitelli said.

The idea of police officers smuggling cheese is not a new one.

Fans of British fiction author Jasper Fforde have pointed out on Twitter the odd similarity to Fforde’s popular character detective Thursday Next. She is a cheese smuggling member of law enforcement in his bestselling Thursday Next series.

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