Western Cape cops seize black market cigarettes worth R322,000

Some of the cigarettes bound for Grassy Park which police confiscated on May 12 2020. The bust has again raised criticism of the government's ban on cigarette sales. Some of the cigarettes bound for Grassy Park which police confiscated on May 12 2020. The bust has again raised criticism of the government's ban on cigarette sales.
Image: SA Police Service

Police in the Western Cape say they have stopped two consignments of illegal cigarettes worth R322,000 reaching the black market.

One consignment was being smuggled from the Eastern Cape and the other from Polokwane.

Spokesperson Capt Malcolm Pojie said a bakkie loaded with pineapples was being driven by a “nervous” man when it stopped at the Tsitsikamma toll gate on the N2 on Tuesday.

“A vigilant member attached to the Tsitsikamma K9 (Knysna Dog Unit) pulled the vehicle over and searched it,” said Poje. “As the member moved some of the pineapples aside on the back of the bakkie, he discovered eight boxes filled with 50 cartons of cigarettes to the estimated value of about R200,000.”

Poje said the 30-year-old driver was arrested and would appear in the Plettenberg Bay magistrate's court. The cigarettes were destined for George, he said.

Spokesperson Col Andrè Traut said the K9 unit, crime intelligence, the Hawks and the SA Revenue Service followed up on information of cigarettes being smuggled from Polokwane to Grassy Park, in Cape Town.

“Investigations [on Tuesday night] resulted in the arrest of a 33-year-old male and the seizure of illicit cigarettes valued at R122,000 destined for the black market,” he said.

The suspect would appear in the Wynberg magistrate's court “on charges relating to the Customs Act, Tobacco Products Control Act and the Disaster Management Act”.

Ban on cigarettes a crucial part of fighting Covid-19: HSRCThe Human Sciences Research Council recently conducted two online surveys to investigate South Africans’ knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and ...News1 day ago

The activist group Tax Justice SA said on Wednesday that a Human Sciences Research Council survey that backed the ban on cigarette sales during the Covid-19 lockdown also suggested 60% of smokers had been able to buy on the black market.

Founder Yusuf Abramjee said the survey showed that as well as costing Sars R35m a day in lost excise duty, the ban was potentially exposing people to the coronavirus.

“If you turn 11-million smokers into criminals then they are going to be more covert and engage in closer contact with more people,” he said.

“These [HSRC] figures show that people buying cigarettes illegally are 50% more likely to have close contact with 10 or more people than, say, people who are buying bread, mielies or meat in a shop or supermarket where social distancing is being enforced.

“The logical and right solution is to allow cigarettes to be sold in proper retail establishments so people can buy them at the same time as the mielies and meat.

“That way the government gets an extra R35m a day in taxes, the criminals lose out and, crucially, we minimise the spread of the virus.”

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