Illegal cigarettes worth R30m crushed after busts

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At the Beitbridge border post, R30m in illegal cigarettes are being destroyed at the state warehouse. Photo: SARS
At the Beitbridge border post, R30m in illegal cigarettes are being destroyed at the state warehouse. Photo: SARS
  • SARS has seized and destroyed illegal goods worth hundreds of millions of rands in a bid to stamp out illicit trade. 
  • The goods range from R30 million worth of illicit cigarettes to crystal methamphetamine and even R45 million worth of sexual enhancement drugs. 
  • Over R100 million worth of a substance used to manufacture mandrax was also seized.

The South African Revenue Service has begun destroying illegal cigarettes from previous seizures valued at over R30 million at the state warehouse at Beitbridge border, with another destruction of illegal cigarettes planned to take place in Pretoria in two weeks, it said in a statement on Friday.

Due to the volume of the illegal cigarettes, the destruction will continue for several days.

SARS said the machinery it uses to destroy the cigarettes finely crushes the cigarettes and they are then buried at a landfill site. 

According to the revenue service, its customs officers had a successful bust at the Kopfontein border post between South Africa and Botswana, where three false compartments were discovered in a tanker packed with 355 master cases of illegal cigarettes, valued at over R5.5 million.

In Kempton Park, Pretoria and Johannesburg, 22 shops were raided and illegal cigarettes valued at R2.4 million were seized. Photo: SARS

In a joint operation between SARS customs officers, the South African Police Service, The Department of Home Affairs and the Metro Police in Gauteng, 22 shops were raided and illegal cigarettes valued at R2.4 million were seized collectively in Kempton Park, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

"Whilst we are pleased with these successes, we still have a significant amount of work ahead in order to address this scourge of criminal behaviour, which distorts our domestic economy, erodes the tax base and destroys employment opportunities," said SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter.

Kieswetter further said the seizure and destruction of illegal cigarettes was an important signal of government's commitment to root out the illegal trade of goods such as cigarettes, clothing and textiles, second-hand motor vehicles and scrap metal, among others.

"Based on our legislative mandate, SARS is determined to make it hard and costly for any person who does not comply with their tax and customs obligations. Non-compliance by any person causes revenue losses which our country cannot afford," said Kieswetter.

Illegally imported Pacific Blue cigarettes, seized by SARS. Photo: SARS

More seizures

SARS customs officers also discovered 80kg of crystal methamphetamine on Wednesday, hidden in cargo declared as "sewing material" going to Israel via Istanbul valued at approximately R24 million, at OR Tambo International Airport.

On the same day, at OR Tambo International Airport, customs officers discovered sexual enhancement medication, valued at approximately R45 220 000, which had been improperly declared.

A week ago, customs officers working with the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) were searching suspicious cargo, which had arrived at OR Tambo International Airport from Kenya. A brown substance wrapped in foil and hidden in canisters was discovered. After testing, it was identified as a substance used as a precursor in the manufacturing of Mandrax. The substance, with an estimated value of R105.4 million, could have led to the manufacture of 1 700 000 Mandrax tablets.

All of the goods seized were handed over to the SAPS for further investigation, said SARS. 

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