Tissue paper turns out to be R10m in illicit cigarettes
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DURBAN – OVER the weekend South African Revenue Service (Sars) Customs officials seized illicit cigarettes worth R10 million at the Durban harbour.
The cigarettes had been declared as tissue paper.
Sars said the bust in Durban came after an operation in Cape Town a few days ago where illegal cigarettes valued at R6 million were seized. The value of the cigarettes in both seizures amounts to R16m.
“The Durban bust was based on information received about a container that was imported from an East Asian country with contents incorrectly declared as tissue paper,” Sars said.
As a result of last month’s riots in KwaZulu-Natal, the vessel was delayed at outer anchorage and the container was only released on July 16. However, once the container was scrutinised on the Transnet system, it was found that the container had illicit cigarettes, which may also be counterfeit.
There were further delays at the port as a result of the Transnet core systems but when the port started recovering, the container of cigarettes was released from the port on July 28.
Sars said that on the following day, it was established that the cargo was delivered to a storage facility at Old North Coast Road in Glen Anil, north of Durban.
“On July 30, a search warrant was obtained at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court and Sars entered the premises. Inside the warehouse were 950 master cases of Pacific 14mg cigarettes (illicit product) and 50 boxes of tissue paper,” said Sars.
Sars said police were investigating the matter.
Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said: “Our customs officials understand the importance of preventing illicit goods, such as cigarettes, from entering South Africa, because they destroy local industry and contribute to the loss of jobs.”
“Their actions are proof that Sars will not tolerate non-compliance by any taxpayer or trader and that we will make it hard and costly for those who wilfully flout our country’s laws.”