11/01/2011 11:04 EDT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 EST

8 arrested in alleged smuggling of counterfeit smokes and drug making material

TORONTO - An international crime ring that allegedly smuggled numerous shipments of cigarettes and drug-making materials into Canada has been dismantled, RCMP and border officials said Tuesday.

Seven people in Ontario and one in British Columbia have been arrested and warrants are out for two more people from Vancouver, authorities told a news conference.

The investigation began in 2009 when a sea container holding counterfeit cigarettes destined for Toronto was seized at the Port of Vancouver.

Over the next two years, authorities say 11 sea containers from Asia were intercepted: seven in Vancouver and four in Toronto.

The seizures involved 583,600 cartons of cigarettes and 6,270 kilograms of P2P, which is used in the manufacture of methamphetamines and amphetamines.

Staff Sgt. Tony Gollob of the RCMP said the P2P seizure was the largest seizure in Canadian history of the drug precursor.

"The seizure of that prevented over 65 million dosages of methamphetamine from hitting the streets and it had a serious impact on the future availability of methamphetamines in Canada," he said.

The precursor is a raw chemical that can be manufactured in another country and then shipped to Canada to be refined, into tablet form for example, said Gollob.

It's usually sent to a place called a "cookhouse" where a person known as a "chef" puts the narcotics into a refined form for sale, he said.

"Our goal was to achieve not just the arrest of the low-end individuals but to target the hierarchy of this criminal organization and arrest them with a goal to dismantle their ability to continue their criminal enterprise," Gollob said.

The eight arrested are due to appear in a Toronto court Nov. 30 on various charges, including conspiracy to smuggle goods.