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More than 75 000 cases of illicit cigarettes worth almost R280 million, nearly 3 000 narcotics seizures worth R200m, 35 seizures of protected wildlife products such as rhino horn worth almost R60m, and more than seven million items of clothing and textiles worth more than R1 billion were among successes scored by customs officials in the past year.

“The successful interventions in illicit trade resulted in a total of over 25 000 seizures with a value of R2.6bn,” Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said yesterday. There had been further successful busts last month, including a 3kg cocaine package discovered in the luggage of a man arriving at OR Tambo International Airport from Brazil. The drugs were valued at almost R1.5m. Gordhan was replying in writing to a parliamentary question on the effectiveness of strategies to fight customs fraud.

A further R5.5m worth of drugs known as black cocaine, or Coca Negra, had been found on a group of men on a flight from Buenos Aires.

The men had hidden the substance – weighing 10.94kg – in the lining of their jackets, in the soles of their sandals and the lining of a duvet cover.

Another incident involved a narcotics parcel en route from Buenos Aires via South Africa to Maputo, which was intercepted after a “random inspection” at the mail centre. The package – which turned out to be liquid cocaine – weighed 600g and was valued at R163 260.

On the same day, Sars officials at a border post discovered false compartments in a truck containing illicit cigarettes, after receiving information from the crime intelligence unit. The compartments contained 3 450 cartons of various types of cigarettes valued at almost R450 000, Gordhan’s reply to the question from ANC MP Siphiwo Mazosiwe said. A further 790 packets of cigarettes to the value of R55 600 were found the same day. At the Beit Bridge border post, more cigarette packages, valued at about R3m, were discovered in a fuel tanker.

Gordhan said South Africa had been identified in the latest World Bank “Doing Business” report as the country that had “improved the most” in the ease of trading across borders. He said the report noted that overall, South Africa had improved the average time of importing from 32 days last year to 23 days this year, with significant improvements in document preparation from 14 days to seven days.

Pretoria News Weekend