A Sars Customs official oversees the destruction of thousands of counterfeit cigarettes. Picture: Screenshot
A Sars Customs official oversees the destruction of thousands of counterfeit cigarettes. Picture: Screenshot

Sars nets counterfeit cigarettes on SA-Botswana border

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Jun 22, 2021

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Johannesburg – The SA Revenue Service’s Customs unit uncovered thousands of counterfeit Pacific cigarettes at the SA-Botswana border last week.

The cigarettes were headed into South Africa and just last week, more than 475 000 packets of counterfeit cigarettes were uncovered in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). The cigarettes are believed to have been sourced from an Asian company, which declared the cigarettes as furniture to local authorities.

On Monday, in Pretoria, Sars destroyed illicit cigarettes worth over R15m which had seized in various operations.

Anton Fischer, a spokesperson for Sars, confirmed that illegal cigarettes worth over R5.5m were seized at the Kopfontein border post.

"Customs officials searched a tanker, which had arrived from Botswana, and discovered three false compartments.

“The compartments were packed with 355 master cases of illegal cigarettes, valued at over R5.5-million.

“The truck and cigarettes were detained for further investigation,” he said.

Sars said the driver had been arrested, but the cigarettes were yet to be destroyed.

The Pacific Cigarette Company said the cigarettes were counterfeit as the packets had more than 11 different deviations from their genuine product.

It says it is concerned by the developments, saying it was under a counterfeit attack, and committed to continue working with Sars to eradicate the illicit trade of counterfeit cigarettes.

Pacific’s chief executive Yves Le Boulengé, said the latest tranche of counterfeit cigarettes which was seized by Sars last week was taken on a “rigorous examination” and investigations found the counterfeit cigarettes had over 11 different deviations from their genuine product.

He said these deviations included the shape of the cigarette pack; the font used on the cigarette pack; the packaging material; the dye, the blend and the length of the cigarettes.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the cigarettes seized are counterfeit,” said Le Boulengé.

“There are over 11 significant disparities with genuine Pacific cigarettes.

“The cigarettes that were seized were different in almost every aspect, even though these differences are virtually undetectable to the general consumer.

“The pack is not D-shaped, the cigarette is different, the writing on the pack is in the wrong font, the list goes on and on,” said Le Boulengé.

Le Boulengé said their cigarette was under counterfeit attack as it had strong consumer demand, and as a company, they were concerned by the counterfeit cigarettes.

“Only through careful examination of the packs and cigarettes are we able to discern the differences between our genuine products and these counterfeits, despite our considerable investment in pack security technology.

“This is very concerning,” said Le Boulengé.

“We call upon consumers to familiarise themselves with the genuine Pacific cigarettes that are in the D-shaped pack.

“Anything else, other than a D-shaped pack, must be considered counterfeit.

“We will work with the authorities to identify and remove Pacific counterfeits from any retailer shelves,” said Le Boulengé.

Meanwhile, Pacific is calling on players in the tobacco industry and government to establish a task team to clamp down on counterfeit cigarettes.

“Pacific cigarettes is committed to working with the industry and law enforcement agencies to eradicate counterfeit cigarettes.

“The South African task team model can then be replicated throughout SADC as this is a regional problem,” said Yves Le Boulengé.

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