Paul Bourassa

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Paul Bourassa was Senior Vice President for Legal, Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Japan Tobacco International (JTI) from 2005 until 2015 when he left the company.1

Career at Japan Tobacco International

Bourassa joined RJ Reynolds International (which was acquired by JTI in 1999) in 1993 as Senior International Counsel, and has held various senior positions including:

  • Head of Corporate Affairs (appointed 2004)
  • Chief Legal Officer (appointed 2003)
  • General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer (appointed 2002)

Signed JTI’s Anti-Smuggling Agreement with the EU

Bourassa, on behalf of JTI, signed in December 2007 a 15-year Cooperation Agreement with the European Commission to combat tobacco smuggling.2 The anti-fraud agreement is one of four between the European Union (EU) and tobacco companies regarding smuggling, with the other three being with Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. The agreement with PMI expired in 2016 and was not renewed and the rest are ongoing.3
The agreements settled EU attempted litigation before US courts against several tobacco manufacturers, including JTI regarding involvement in tobacco smuggling. Under the agreement, JTI has committed to substantial payments, totalling $400 million over 15 years, and “to a continuous process of dialogue and cooperation with the EC and Member States to evaluate and address the trade in Illegal Product”.4
Under the agreement, JTI also agreed to adopt a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on smuggling, to train its employees accordingly, and enforce an effective strategy in order to crack down on illicit tobacco trade. The company set up an internal illicit trade investigative unit made up of former senior law enforcement officers. In 2011, the not-for-profit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported that investigators in JTI’s internal unit had been fired in 2010 for allegedly reporting “what they said were repeated instances of smuggling by distributors” and claiming that “senior JTI executives protected the smugglers by leaking information of ongoing investigations”.5
OLAF investigated the allegations and in April 2016 concluded there was no proof of involvement of JTI in any activities, stating:
“In July 2015, OLAF closed an investigation into the alleged involvement of JTI in the diversion of tobacco products from third countries into the EU, as well as possible non-compliance with the provisions of the Anti-fraud Agreement between JTI and the EU and its Member States of 2007. The investigation did not prove any involvement of any JTI entities or employees in illegal activities such as cigarette smuggling or diversion of cigarettes into the EU.”6

However, tobacco control expert Luk Joossens and others have warned that the anti-illicit agreements between the EU and tobacco companies are inadequate in deterring tobacco industry’s involvement in illicit trade, and are threatening progress in tobacco control.789

Helped Fight Tobacco Advertising Ban

In 1994 Bourassa headed the development of action plans to improve JTI’s capability to fight proposed Canadian advertising bans.1011
One of the tasks that Bourassa was in charge of was “to pull together the best materials, argumentation and other tools available to win these fights”. He also was responsible for developing “advertorials and other materials to influence public opinion” against the advertising bans. Bourassa was assisted by Montreal law firm Mackenzie Gervais.

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  1. Japan Tobacco International, Paul Bourassa, 29 March 2014, accessed October 2018
  2. Cooperation Agreement between JT International S.A. JT International Holding BV and the European Community and the Participating Member States, 14 December 2007, accessed January 2019
  3. P. Teffer, EU ends anti-smuggling deal with tobacco firm PMI,, 6 July 2016, accessed January 2016
  4. European Commission, European Commission and JT International (Japan Tobacco) sign 15-year Agreement to combat contraband and counterfeit cigarettes, Press Release Database, 14 December 2007, accessed January 2019
  5. OCCRP, Japan Tobacco Fights Back Against Former Employees, 26 November 2011, accessed January 2019
  6. OLAF Press Spokesperson, Email, 6 April 2016
  7. L. Joossens, H. Ross, M. Stoklosa, EU Policy and Illicit Tobacco Trade: Assessing the Impacts,, January 2014, accessed January 2019
  8. L. Joossens, A. B. Gilmore, M. Stoklosa, et al, Assessment of the European Union’s illicit trade agreements with the four major Transnational Tobacco Companies, Tobacco Control, 2016, accessed January 2019
  9. Action on Smoking and Health, All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. Inquiry into the illicit trade in tobacco products, 2013, accessed January 2019
  10. P. J. Vanevery, By my April 22 memo to you, I distributed a copy of the new external relations strategic plan, 8 June 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 511392119-511392122, accessed January 2019
  11. Unknown, Marketing Freedoms, 1994, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 511392158-511392166, accessed January 2019