Cuban cigars seized in Chicago

Dec. 7, 2010 at 3:00 PM
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CHICAGO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. customs officials say they've seized 30,000 Cuban cigars shipped from Europe to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in the last two weeks.

Officials say they are examining another 70,000 smokes they believe are from Cuba, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

Importing any Cuban product into the United States without a license from the U.S. Treasury Department is illegal.

The seizure of the popular contraband at the O'Hare international mail facility is the biggest seen at the Customs and Border Protection's Chicago field office, which typically seizes 10 to 12 cigars a week, officials said.

"Our officers stationed at (Customs and Border Protection) mail facilities routinely discover and seize a variety of contraband arriving from all over the world," David Murphy, director of field operations for the agency's Chicago office, said. "But this is the first time in Chicago we have seen this level of activity involving illegal cigars."

The seized cigars will be destroyed, officials said.

Cuban cigars are prized, a Chicago cigar afficianado says, because the climate and soil in Cuba are perfect for growing tobacco.

Cubans just know how to roll a cigar, Neil Mehra, owner of Hubbard & State Cigar Shop in Chicago, says.

"I mean they make the best cigars because they've been making cigars for hundreds and hundreds of years," Mehra says.

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