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Sars, SAPS and metro cops seize more than R3.1m in illicit cigarettes in Phoenix, drugs too

The bust took place at three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix. Picture: Supplied

The bust took place at three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 6, 2022

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Durban – A combined operation by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) Customs officers, the SAPS and the Durban metro police resulted in the seizure of illicit cigarettes and drugs of more than R3.1 million in Phoenix, north of Durban.

On Thursday, more than two million cigarettes and drugs were confiscated.

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The authorities swooped on three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix.

The crackdown netted 2.31 million sticks of cigarettes valued at more than R3.1m, according to Sars.

It said the cigarettes were sold at a low value and that it was clear no excise duties were being paid. A full audit is to be conducted on the goods.

Police and other law enforcement agencies swooped on three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix. Picture: Supplied

“Narcotics, including mandrax and cannabis, with a street value of about R10 000 were found at two of the locations. The drugs were handed over to the police for further investigation,” Sars said.

“This incident forms part of an ongoing operation to clamp down on illegal cigarette distributors in KwaZulu-Natal. The focus of the operation is to ensure that all cigarettes sold within South Africa are compliant and that the correct taxes are being paid.

“Sars has taken a firm stand to eradicate the illicit tobacco industry in this country, and we will continue to conduct customs and tax audits on all non-compliant traders and taxpayers,” it said.

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Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said: “Sars is committed to trade facilitation and growing our country’s economy. It will continue to make it easy and seamless for traders to comply with their legal obligations by providing them with clarity and certainty.

“Equally, Sars is building its capability to make it hard and costly for those traders who choose to be non-compliant. This is a warning that we are clamping down on those involved in criminal behaviour and we will ensure that they are dealt with harshly,” Kieswetter said.

Crime-fighters swooped on three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix. Picture: Supplied

Metro police spokesperson senior superintendent Parboo Sewpersad added that at the first premises the team recovered illicit cigarettes to the value of R2.9m, and at the second premises they recovered illicit cigarettes with a street value of R600 000.

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Sewpersad said mandrax, rock cocaine and dagga were also found in the yard.

“R92 000 cash was also recovered and handed back to the homeowner,” Sewpersad said. “All illicit cigarettes were confiscated by Sars, pending an investigation.”

A week before the bust, Sars through its Criminal and Illicit Economic Activities and Customs divisions carried out inspections as well as search-and-seizure operations on cigarette companies and manufacturers in KZN, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

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The bust had taken place at three residences belonging to a well-known cigarette supplier in Phoenix. Picture: Supplied

The search-and-seizure exercises yielded:

  • 362 master cases valued at R4.8m in the Western Cape.
  • 3 852 master cases valued at R51m in Gauteng.

A physical inspection is also under way at Durban harbour after 20 containers were found to contain tobacco valued at R24m, though the initial inspection found a consignment of cement bags.

The same exporter was found to be involved in the exporting of over 10 million kilograms of tobacco valued at over R450m. The Sars investigations are continuing.

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