Five arrested and illicit cigarettes worth R10 million seized in Sandton
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Pretoria – Five men have been arrested at Sandton in an operation on Monday which led police in Gauteng to seize a consignment of illicit cigarettes worth about R10 million.
“The endless efforts of SAPS in Gauteng to fight the trade and proliferation of illicit cigarettes saw positive results when a consignment of illicit cigarettes worth about R10 million was seized and five men arrested at Sandton,” Gauteng SAPS spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said.
“Crime intelligence information was operationalised by provincial organised crime unit, West Rand K9 and Customs from the SA Revenue Service. The team stopped and searched a truck with five occupants at Grayston Square whereby a consignment of illicit cigarettes was discovered,” Sello said.
Sello said the large haul of illicit cigarettes was seized and the five arrested suspects are expected to appear before Sandton Magistrate’s Court soon on a charge of possession of illicit cigarettes.
Police investigations continue.
Earlier this month, Tax Justice SA (TJSA) called on all tobacco firms in South Africa to sign up to its new charter aimed at defeating the rampant illicit cigarette trade, which is robbing the country of billions of rand.
Following the release of its “explosive” undercover investigation detailing widespread tax evasion in the industry, TJSA last week launched a five-point action plan to tackle what it termed the world’s biggest black market.
TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee said: “Our research shows criminal manufacturers are flooding shops across South Africa with illicit cigarettes that last year deprived the Treasury of R19 billion in excise alone. These industrial-scale looters are public enemy number one and it should be a national priority to bring them to justice.
“We need an official inquiry into the whole industry and the immediate enforcement of regulations already at the disposal of Sars (South African Revenue Service).”
The TJSA charter to combat illicit cigarettes calls for:
• Immediate adoption of Sars’ CCTV policy to let officials monitor production at all cigarette factories.
• Closure by Sars of any factory producing brands of cigarettes selling beneath the Minimum Collectible Tax (MCT) level of R21.60 per pack.
• The arrest and prosecution of people running these companies, seizure of their assets and the return of the looted billions to their rightful owners – the state and its people.
• A minimum legal price for tobacco products at retail level of 30% above MCT, below which they are automatically recognised as illegal and instantly seized.
• A national inquiry into the South African tobacco industry that will rid us of the scourge of illicit cigarettes.