SOUTH African police intercepted a vehicle loaded with a consignment of cigarettes valued at about R500 000 which was smuggled from Zimbabwe through undesignated crossing points along the Limpopo River.
Of late, there has been an increase in the cases of cigarette smuggling and authorities have intensified their crackdown on cigarette smuggling syndicates.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Malasela Ledwaba confirmed the latest development, saying they arrested one suspect.
“The recent efforts of members of the Vhembe District Cross Border and Trio Task Teams in Limpopo have yielded success in combating the smuggling of illicit cigarettes. This follows the arrest of a 40-year-old foreign national suspect on Tuesday who was found in possession of illicit cigarettes worth R497 000,” he said.
Lt Col Ledwaba said their officers who were patrolling along the R525 road from Tshipise to N1 Baobab Tollgate noticed a suspicious white Ford Ranger motor vehicle driving at a high speed.
They then gave chase and subsequently cornered the suspect.
Upon searching the vehicle, police recovered 760 cartons of cigarettes with an estimated value of R497 000 hidden inside the car.
“We confiscated the contraband and also impounded their vehicle. The suspect is expected to appear at the Musina Magistrate’s Court soon on a charge of possession of illicit cigarettes,’ said Lt Col Ledwaba.
The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River is rife.
The Polokwane High Court recently granted South Africa’s specialised crime police the Hawks a preservation order to hold property worth R4 million they recovered from 11 people who were found smuggling cigarettes from Zimbabwe.
The Limpopo Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’s (Hawks) Assets Forfeiture Unit successfully secured a preservation order worth R379 745 against illicit cigarette smugglers recently.
This follows the recent interception of five vehicles in the Makhado area which were transporting an assortment of smuggled cigarettes from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg.
It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles.
Ideally, a box of cigarettes is bought at US$120 from local producers and sold for between US$250 and US$300 to the syndicates who then smuggle them into South Africa where they sell for anything above R15 000.
Those who illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per box and in most cases, this is done under the cover of darkness.