SARS to reestablish teams to probe illicit tobacco trade

Cape Town - The South African Revenue Service is in the process of reestablishing dedicated investigative teams to probe the illicit tobacco trade, the tax agency’s acting head Mark Kingon has said. 

Kingon was briefing Parliament’s oversight committee on finance on illicit financial flows. 

“We are setting up these multi-disciplinary teams,” said Kingon. Teams would also be constituted to investigate the illicit gold and fuel trade. 

Kingon told MPs that while SARS in the past had well-resourced teams to investigate illicit trade, these units "were predominantly dissolved”.

“Historically SARS Project Honey Badger was managed under a unit called National Projects,” he said. “National Projects brought about the integration and coordination of various capabilities and dedicated teams to focus on specific areas in the illicit economy.”

But Kingon said investigators that formed part of these teams have been split up and “scattered throughout SARS”. 

He said the revenue service currently only has one dedicated team focusing solely on illicit trade in the tobacco industry, with a staff of eight, which he said is “very insignificant”. 

As Fin24 previously reported, earlier this year the chair of the Tobacco Institute of South Africa Francois van der Merwe estimated that between 2010 and 2016, the loss to the fiscus around tax evasion linked to the illicit tobacco trade was over R27bn.

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