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DURBAN - Smuggled goods, from rhino horn to hardcore drugs and knock-off clothing, totalling more than R2.3billion in street value, have been confiscated in the past year by customs agents, largely at the country’s airports.

The staggering traffic was revealed in a statement released yesterday by the South African Revenue Service (Sars), detailing figures of illicit flows in and out of the country from April 2017 until the end of last month.

While the announcement was worthy of congratulation, it was not worth celebrating, said Eric Pelser, the head of the Trans-National Organised Crime in Africa programme at the Institute of Security Studies.

“What the figures (of the busts) don’t tell you is the size of the market and the increasing size of the flow (of illegal goods),” he said, referring to how heroin busts alone had increased exponentially in the past 20 years.

Counterfeit

This week, the Hawks started a new tally for KwaZulu-Natal when they raided a Bluff container depot, seizing counterfeit clothing.

King Shaka International Airport featured in the Sars report for a currency smuggling bust, where more than R6million was being taken out in rand and US dollars, headed for Dubai.

Other busts in KwaZulu-Natal in the past two weeks saw additional seizures involving R27m in illegal cigarettes, drugs, endangered wildlife products, gold and counterfeit clothing products.

Referring to the recent Bluff depot busts - the most recent on Thursday - Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said the authorities knew who the suspects were.

“They will be summoned to appear in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court once due processes are finalised,” he said.

The biggest of Sars’ 46 busts took place on March 1 and 2 with the discovery of uncut crystal methamphetamine (tik) with an estimated value of R30m stashed in fridges on a truck, which arrived in Cape Town from Johannesburg.

“In the same truck, a large amount of suspected counterfeit clothing was also discovered,” the statement read.

“The truck driver was arrested.”

Sars listed other highlights of illegal goods found arriving in South Africa, leaving the country and using the country as a conduit.

Currency smuggling saw the highest number of busts - six, involving more than R57m - while three cases of cocaine smuggling involved contraband with the highest value more than R73m.

Other highlights were:

* Rhino horn with an estimated value of R5752000 en route from South Africa to Hong Kong, at OR Tambo International Airport.

* Cocaine with an estimated value of R56676900 en route from Brazil to Australia via South Africa, at OR Tambo Airport.

* Cocaine with an estimated value of R10069500 en route from Brazil to Namibia via South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Cocaine with an estimated value of R7480200 en route from Brazil to Congo via South Africa seized at OR Tambo.

* Tik with an estimated value of R7200000 from Nigeria to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Rhino horn with an estimated value of R4600000 en route from Zambia to Hong Kong via South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Currency (US dollars) valued at R6717848 en route from South Africa to Dubai, at OR Tambo.

* Ecstasy with an estimated value of R33600000 en route from Cameroon via Kenya to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Currency (US dollars) valued at R10328010 en route from South Africa to Canada, at OR Tambo.

* Currency (US dollars) valued at R10069249 en route from Angola to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Sexual enhancement tablets valued at R5260000 en route from India via Seychelles to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Currency (rand and US dollars) valued at R10323591 en route from South Africa to Dubai, at the Cape Town International Airport.

* Tik with an estimated value of R6180000 en route within South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Abalone with an estimated value of R10000000 en route from South Africa to China, at the Port Elizabeth Harbour.

* Kamagra (generic Viagra) valued at R4000000 en route from India to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Ephedrine with an estimated value of R17202000 en route from Kenya to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Currency (US dollars and pound sterling) valued at R15000000 en route from South Africa to Dubai, at OR Tambo.

* Viagra valued at R9000000 en route from Dubai to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Tik with an estimated value of R8358000 en route from Rwanda to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

* Ephedrine with an estimated value of R17202000 en route from Kenya to South Africa, at OR Tambo.

Busts

Other recent busts by Sars included 108kg of drugs, hidden in boxes and declared as “calcium carbonate”.

“Officials inspected the boxes in the cargo section at OR Tambo Airport after they arrived from Kenya on Tuesday,” the revenue service said.

“They discovered a white powdery substance and a brown sand-like substance, which they sent to a private laboratory for testing.

“The results came back positive for the drug ketamine (the white powdery substance) and acetylanthranil, a base ingredient for methaqualone (mandrax).

“The case has been handed over to the Hawks for further investigation.”

On Thursday, Sars found 6000kg of cannabis, worth more than R9m, at the border crossing from Lesotho at Ficksburg in the Free State. “The driver was taken into police custody,” the statement read.

According to the chief officer for Customs and Excise, Teboho Mokoena, the seizure of counterfeit clothing, footwear and other goods made up the biggest share of smuggling busts, amounting to R1.8bn.

Next were drugs, including tik and cocaine, amounting to more than R326m.