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Two men were arrested at the Young Israel of Montreal synagogue on April 26, where police found 650 cases of kosher wine – from Israel, Australia, and the U.S. – in its basement.
Quebec prohibits the private sale of alcohol except through mandated provincial agency stores, although some wines and beers sold at grocery stores are exempt.
Also allowed is some private importing of alcohol as long as special taxes are paid to the agency, known as a Crown corporation.
According to news reports, increased Passover demand for kosher wines combined with a minimal selection at agency stores and prohibitive prices prompted the creation of illegal “stores.”
Such stores are something of an “open secret” within the Jewish community come holiday time.
“There is not a big kosher selection [at the agency stores],” one synagogue member told Global News. The police “always seem like they are coming down hard.”
In 2010, a Hasidic synagogue in Montreal was charged with illegally bringing in about 1,000 bottles of kosher wine without a permit.