On and around January 7 and 8, 2024, several media houses reported that drugs worth R37 million were seized at OR Tambo International Airport by customs officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
The story, as widely reported by a number of prominent local media outlets, held that SARS officials had seized 23kg of narcotics at cargo sheds at OR Tambo International Airport. The drugs were reportedly disguised as moulded artwork, destined for New Zealand.
While Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) applauds and commends the action of SARS officials and their efforts to eradicate the illicit drug trade, it categorically denies that the seizure took place at OR Tambo International Airport.
“At no point were ACSA officials contacted to verify the veracity of this story or confirm whether the drug bust actually took place at OR Tambo International Airport,” says Laurene Less, Group Executive - Corporate Services at ACSA. “While SARS customs officials may well have seized R37m worth of drugs disguised as artwork recently, ACSA can in all confidence state that it has no knowledge of this seizure.”
ACSA can confirm that the error seems to have originated from a media statement issued by SARS regarding the incident.
“Nonetheless, it must be stressed that it is important that all endeavours should be made by journalists to report news stories accurately,” adds Less.
“The correct location of this incident can only be verified by SARS custom officials, and as such, ACSA would like to request that this fact be brought to light.
“While the company is in the process of engaging with SARS directly to clarify the situation, it is deeply disappointing and troubling that no one from the various media houses that covered the story made an effort to contact ACSA to obtain the basic facts.
“This, after all, is a basic tenet of good and ethical journalism,” concludes Less.