Two people from Hamilton, Ont. have been charged after a traffic stop on Highway 1, just east of Indian Head, yielded millions of illegal cigarettes and over a thousand kilograms of shisha tobacco.

A release from the Saskatchewan RCMP said Saskatchewan Highway Patrol officers with the Provincial Protective Services Branch noticed evidence that a semi was transporting illegal cigarettes.

They searched the semi and trailer and found 18 pallets, each containing 30 boxes of unstamped tobacco. In total, officers seized approximately 5.4 million cigarettes and 1,356 kg of shisha tobacco.

Indian Head RCMP took carriage of the investigation, in consultation with the Saskatchewan Highway Patrol and enforcement officers in the revenue division with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Finance.

The semi's occupants, Sargon Jahn, 34, and Berj Antaneek, 35, have been charged with:

- two counts, selling tobacco and raw leaf tobacco, Section 121.1(1), Criminal Code;

- one count, unlawful possession or sale of tobacco products, Section 32(1), Excise Act;

- one count, unlawfully import tobacco into Saskatchewan, Section 8(1), Tobacco Tax Act; and

- one count, possession or authorize or cause another person to be in possession of unmarked tobacco, Section 11(8), Tobacco Tax Act.

Both are scheduled to appear in court in Indian Head on January 3.

"This is a very significant seizure of contraband tobacco – the largest I’ve seen in my career," said Indian Head RCMP Sgt. Ryan Case. "The sale of illegal tobacco has many effects on Saskatchewan and its residents. When you buy contraband tobacco, you have no idea how and where it is manufactured. There is no quality control like you find with legal manufacture and that presents extra risk to smokers. Also, contraband tobacco reduces revenue for business owners through legal sales, but also represents tax loss for our province. Lastly, the manufacture and trafficking of contraband tobacco is often tied to organized crime groups. We seized 5.4 million unstamped cigarettes through this joint effort with Saskatchewan Highway Patrol – and we will continue to work to disrupt the trafficking of illegal tobacco in our communities."