Unregistered tobacco plant ’linked to licensed cigarette manufacturer’ uncovered

File picture: SAPS

File picture: SAPS

Published Sep 17, 2021


Cape Town – An unregistered tobacco manufacturing plant that produces molasses/shisha tobacco products has been uncovered during a search-and-seizure operation conducted in Gauteng.

The plant is linked to a specific licensed cigarette manufacturer through the brand of the tobacco products found on the premises. The manufacturing plant and all its machines and molasses were detained for further investigation in terms of tax and customs legislation, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said in a statement on Friday.

The intelligence-driven operation was conducted by Sars through its National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) and its Illicit Trade Unit, supported by the SA Police Service and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.

The multi-agency enforcement team also conducted search-and-seizure operations on three shops in Fordsburg, focusing on the sale of suspected illicit tobacco products. They uncovered 1 337 cartons of illicit molasses as well as illicit cigarettes with an estimated value of R400 000.

The goods were detained and removed pending production of import/local purchase documentation, quantity verification and further investigation on whether the correct taxes were paid to SARS.

’’During the operation, a shop owner from one of the identified shops attempted to bribe one of the Sars officials ’to make the case go away’ with approximately R30 000. A criminal case was opened with SAPS for attempted bribery and the individual was arrested,’’ Sars said.

In another operation, the Sars NRRT inspected a 12-metre container load at one of the licensed depots in City Deep. The consignment was declared as playing cards imported from China to South Africa via the Durban harbour to City Deep.

’’The inspection uncovered a full container load of various clothing items with a declared customs value of R550 000 but which were falsely declared as playing cards.

’’The clothing has been detained pending further steps while a criminal case was opened with SAPS for smuggling and fraud.’’

Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the organisation was committed to making it hard and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and traders. He said such non-compliance, trade in illicit goods and criminal activities destroy the economy and in turn leads to job losses, inequality and poverty.

“Most importantly, these criminal activities reduce the revenue that Sars collects so as to enable the government to render basic services to the poor and vulnerable, such as old-age grants, schools, clinics and a vaccine roll-out programme, to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will remain vigilant and maintain a zero-tolerance approach towards illicit trade in any product because that is what our legal mandate requires us to do,” Kieswetter said.