It’s the largest illegal cigarette bust in recent memory in Nova Scotia.

RCMP officers seized 299 cases of contraband smokes at a residence on Highway 7 in the Smith Settlement area on Wednesday.

“RCMP received information on suspicious activity in the area, completed surveillance of a residence and discovered two vehicles, a rental truck and an 18-wheeler on the property which had illegal tobacco in them,” said RCMP Insp. Brian Brennan on Thursday.

Two men were arrested — a 43-year-old local man and a 45-year-old Montreal man. The retail value of this bust is $1.2 million.

Such a large-scale operation, with cigarettes from central Canada, leads investigators to believe this operation is connected to organized crime. Brennan said investigators are still working on which organized crime group is involved.

“Illicit tobacco shouldn’t be looked upon by the general public in any different way than drug trafficking,” he said. “Whether you buy a quantity of drugs or illicit tobacco, you’re funding organized crime.”

These groups are diversifying into illegal tobacco as well as the drug trade, he added.

Officers caught the cigarettes before they made it to the lowest-level distributors, who tend to sell them from their houses or legitimate businesses. If convicted, the two men could face incarceration, but more likely a fine based on the number of cigarettes seized.

“For organized crime groups that have large networks and have the monetary ability to be involved in this illicit activity, the monetary fines are really a cost of doing business for them,” Brennan said.