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Haliax couple facing customs charges

A photo posted on Facebook shows Carl Launt and his wife, Michelle Ferguson, vacationing in Venice, Italy, in 2015.
A photo posted on Facebook shows Carl Launt and his wife, Michelle Ferguson, vacationing in Venice, Italy, in 2015. - Facebook

A Halifax couple stand accused of sneaking almost $200,000 worth of high-end jewelry, clothing and leather goods purchased abroad into Canada over a five-year period.

Carl Albert Launt and Michelle Suzanne Ferguson were arraigned in Dartmouth provincial court last week on four charges under the Customs Act.

Launt and Ferguson, both 47, are charged with smuggling, making false statements, failing to report imported goods and evading the payment of duties.

The Canada Border Services Agency alleges the offences were committed between January 2013 and July 2017, when Launt and Ferguson made numerous trips outside the country.

The border agency executed a search warrant at the couple’s $800,000 home on Ballantrae Lane last Oct. 18.

According to documents used to obtain the search warrant, the couple came to the attention of the border agency on Sept. 15, 2016, when an officer in Mirabel, Que., inspected a FedEx package from the Bahamas.

The package was addressed to Launt and contained empty boxes for two luxury Swiss watches (Hublot and Chopard), certificates of authenticity and receipts, the documents say.

The receipts were dated Sept. 11, 2016, and were for a total purchase of $35,000 Bahamian, or about $45,615 Canadian.

The case was referred to a criminal investigator at the border agency’s Halifax office in April 2017.

The investigator determined that Launt and Ferguson returned to Halifax from the Bahamas on Sept. 12, 2016, but only declared $410 and $600 in purchases, respectively.

Further investigation revealed the couple used credit cards to purchase more than $157,000 worth of unreported goods while travelling outside Canada between January 2015 and May 2017.

The purchases were made at exclusive stores such as Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, John Varvatos, Neiman Marcus, DK Gems, Chopard and The Vault.

In the documents, the border agency alleges the couple evaded more than $36,000 in duty and sales tax by failing to report those purchases.

“Analysis shows Launt and Ferguson have repeatedly failed to declare their purchases on numerous trips,” investigator Blair Mac-Donald wrote in applying for the search warrant.

Launt is president and CEO of Advantage Wireless, which describes itself as Atlantic Canada’s premier provider of wireless solutions for businesses.

“With over 28 years of experience serving Atlantic Canadians, few people know the wireless business better than Carl,” the company says on its website.

“When he’s not on his phone helping clients, Carl enjoys travelling and soaking up the great outdoors at his Wentworth Valley cottage.”

Launt said he did not wish to comment on the case when contacted by The Chronicle Herald on Monday.

Lawyer Geoff Franklin is representing Launt and Ferguson on the charges, which are due back in court in late February.

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