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Illicit cigarettes worth R43m to go up in smoke in Sars campaign

Sars says it will destroy 2000 master cases of smuggled cigarettes over the next few days. File photo.
Sars says it will destroy 2000 master cases of smuggled cigarettes over the next few days. File photo.
Image: Supplied

The South African Revenue Service has started destroying illicit and smuggled cigarettes worth R43m at the Beitbridge border post.

Sars' customs division is destroying around 20-million cigarettes, or 2,000 master cases, and said the destruction process will likely last a few days.

The tax agency's deputy commissioner Johnstone Makhubu said the cigarettes were seized in multi-agency operations and intelligence-driven operations as part of the division’s tobacco strategy.

"In one such operation at the Beitbridge border post earlier this year 1,211 master boxes of illicit cigarettes with Remington Gold, Chelsea and Royal Express brands, with an estimated value of R26m, were seized.

"Four people were arrested and criminal cases opened with regard to dealing in the smuggling of illicit cigarettes. Four trucks, one bakkie and one tractor with a trailer which were used to carry the illicit cigarettes were detained."

Director of customs and excise Beyers Theron said the unit has put in place measures to grant benefits to compliant traders through the accredited economic operator model.

"These benefits include cost savings and quicker turnaround times, among others. Similarly, Sars is busy implementing smart border technology to increase its detection capability and response to non-compliance."

Theron said since the inception of the co-ordinated and focused investigations customs has been conducting over the past three years in the tobacco and cigarette industry, there has been a noticeable shift to increased cross-border smuggling using runners.

"The runners carry at least two master cases of illicit cigarettes on their backs per run, often repeating the trips multiple times. The cigarettes are then loaded into trucks, small goods vehicles, cars and taxis that wait at locations along the border for distribution to their intended destinations on the local market."


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