Police bust smuggling syndicate – cigarettes worth R1, 7 million recovered

The Chronicle

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau

Limpopo police have intercepted a contraband of cigarettes worth R1, 7 million that had been smuggled from Zimbabwe and was being transported inland South Africa in four vehicles.

The incident occurred near Makhado town at around 3 am on Monday.

Two suspects whose nationality is yet to be ascertained were arrested following a high-speed (vehicles) chase with the police while several others abandoned their vehicles and escaped on foot.

South African Police Services (SAPS) police spokesperson (Limpopo), Lieutenant Colonel Malasela Ledwaba confirmed the incident yesterday.

“In an effort to curb illicit economy-related crimes, members of our provincial tracking team reacted promptly and arrested two suspects in the early hours of Monday, at around 3 am, along the N1 north near Louis Trichardt and subsequently recovered illicit cigarettes worth R1, 7 million,” he said.

Part of the R1,7 million smuggled cigarettes that were intercepted by the police at Makhado in South Africa. Source Saps.

“The suspects were intercepted following a tip-off about a group of suspects allegedly traveling in a number of vehicles transporting illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa”.

Lt Col Ledwaba said when the four vehicles were spotted driving in a convoy and the police tried to stop them but they sped off.

He said a car chase ensued and the suspects abandoned the vehicles and ran away on foot towards the nearby farms.

The police managed to arrest two of the suspects aged 37 and 45, who are both migrants.

“The four vehicles, a Ford Territory SUV, Toyota Quantum, Volvo SUV, and Nissan Hardbody were searched and about 130 boxes containing illicit cigarettes worth R1,7 million were confiscated.

Preliminary police investigations have also revealed that the suspects were in the country illegally,” said Lt Col Ledwaba.

He said the suspects will appear before the Makhado magistrate’s court today charged with dealing in illicit cigarettes and contravention of a section of the Immigration Act.

“The search for the remaining suspects continues. Anyone with information that can lead to their apprehension should contact Detective Sergeant Phaladi Makola on 0027 82 749 2233 or Lieutenant Richard Boshomane on 002779 894 5501 or the crime stop number 0027860010111or the nearest police station,” added Lt Col Ledwaba.

The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River relatively increased in April 2020, prompting security from both countries to intensify anti-smuggling initiatives.

It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.

South Africa’s tax watchdog, Tax Justice SA (TJSA) has accused cigarettes manufacturers in the neighboring country of paying lip service to tax laws following the surge in tobacco smuggling.

The organization’s founder Mr Yusuf Abramjee said many shops in the neighboring country were full of these illicit cigarettes, which rob us of billions in desperately needed taxes.

He said investigations by market researchers IPSOS revealed that 85% of GLTC-owned brands bought in the survey were sold below the minimum collectible tax (MCT) rate of R21.60 per pack.

Mr Abramjee it had also been established that every single pack (99%) of Remington Gold purchased in the survey was below the MCT and that some were sold for as little as R10. @tupeyo

Article Source: The Chronicle

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