DURBAN - Modern risk detection systems and other law enforcement agencies have assisted the South African Division of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) Customs division in seizing illicit cigarettes, hookah-pipe tobacco and scrap metal with a total tax prejudice of R40 million.
Sars said the illegal cigarettes were detected in Durban Harbour and valued at R35m and in Polokwane valued at R3m. A consignment of illicit scrap metal with a customs value of R160 000 was also detained in Polokwane.
Sars also said 432 boxes of hookah-pipe tobacco, valued at R2m, were detected in City Deep and were declared as sugar molasses being warehoused for export to Malawi. However, information indicated that the tobacco was intended for distribution on the local market.
Sars said units of the Sars Customs and Illicit Trade divisions carried out the operations with the support of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).
“The seizure of the illicit cigarettes at the Durban Harbour took place after Sars used its modern risk and targeting systems to identify the consignments that were being imported by a repeat offender. The consignments were incorrectly declared as ceramic mugs and adhesive tape,” Sars said.
“The consignment consisted of three containers which concealed 1 800 master cases of RG cigarettes and 1 245 master cases of foreign brands not registered for sale in South Africa.”
Sars said that in Polokwane the SAPS intercepted a truck with cigarettes and alerted Sars officials. The Illicit Trade Unit of Sars searched the truck and found 276 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with no SA diamond stamp, valued at R3m.
Officials also found a consignment of scrap metal with a Customs value of R160 000. The truck entered the country via the Beitbridge border post. Four suspects were arrested.
Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said importers and exporters of illicit products need to take note that Sars uses modernised systems for risk detection and identification of suspicious cargo.
“The use of the latest technology, big data, algorithms and machine learning to detect and deter non-compliance is one of our strategic objectives and falls within our mission to build a smart, modern Sars that is admired and trusted. We strive for voluntary compliance but will deal harshly with wilful non-compliance and criminal activity.”
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