Pretoria - Weeks of observation, undercover work and investigation by the Lyttelton police station paid off on Thursday when police bust a multimillion rand counterfeit cigarettes and washing powder smuggling gang.
About R300 000 worth of washing powder believed to have been imported from China, was already packed into boxes of two top selling washing powder brands, ready for sale, when police pounced on the suspects.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Hero Gumbu said that police surprised four Chinese nationals on a plot they had been renting in Rietvlei on Thursday morning as they were about to move some of the goods.
“Police were engaged in undercover investigations on that property for a few weeks. There was a lot of movement with Asian nationals coming in and out. They would be there for a few days then a new group would come in,” Gumbu said.
It is believed that the suspects had become aware of police observation and in an attempt to dispose of all evidence they started moving some of the consignment.
“When police raided the house they found fraudulent asylum papers and a machine to produce them, fake passports and other documents as well as ID photos. Four illegal immigrants were also in the house. In the two outbuildings police found seven 200kg drums filled with a chemical powder-like substance believed to be fake washing powder,” said Gumbu. Upon further investigation police found machinery used in the manufacturing and packaging of cigarettes, as well as filters, papers, drying racks and ovens, and a tobacco press machine.
Further investigation led police to a storage facility in Midrand where 85 boxes of cigarette filters were found. “That alone is worth about R1.2million,” Gumbu said.
Investigations led police to a five storey warehouse in the Joburg CBD. A total of 12 Chinese nationals were arrested, all of whom are in the country illegally.