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    Arkansas Sues Five Non-MSA Tobacco Companies

    Suit alleges that they didn't make required payments into escrow.

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Attorney General Mike Beebe filed lawsuits against five tobacco companies from five different countries for violating state tobacco laws, reported the Arkansas News Bureau.

    Because the five companies are not part of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, they are required to pay a percentage of their sales into escrow based on their sales in Arkansas. The lawsuit alleges that the companies failed to make those required payments on April 15.

    "Regardless of where these cigarettes are manufactured, all these companies must abide by Arkansas tobacco laws," Beebe said in a news release. "We have strict laws regulating tobacco sales, and the mandatory escrow payments must be made if these manufacturers wish to continue doing business in our state."

    The lawsuits seek back payments and civil penalties from Seneca-Cayuga Tobacco of Oklahoma, GTC Industries of India, Tabacalera Boqueron of Paraguay, American Virginia of Brazil and International Pacific Manufacturing of the Philippines. Seneca-Cayuga owes the most from 2003 -- $1.2 million -- and International Pacific owes the least -- $1,000.

    All money from the lawsuits would go into Arkansas's general fund, according to Beebe.

    The attorney general's office filed suit against five other American tobacco companies in May for the same reason. Those cases are pending.

    The tobacco settlement was approved by Arkansas voters in 2000 and is expected to bring Arkansas between $50 million and $60 million per year, totaling about $1.6 billion over 25 years, with the money to flow in perpetuity.

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