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Zimbabwean jailed 5 years over R3,5 raw tobacco in SA

by Staff reporter
08 Nov 2022 at 19:25hrs | Views
A 33-year-old Zimbabwean has been sentenced to five years in prison by a South African magistrate court after he was arrested while diverting a load of tobacco and a truck all worth R3,5 million that was in transit through the neighbouring country.

Spencer Shoko was busted by the South African Police's Flying squad while offloading the contraband at a warehouse in Benoni.

He was convicted on his own plea of guilty at the Benoni Magistrates' Court.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for Pretoria, Ms Lumka Mahanjana said Shoko was given an option to pay an R20 000 fine if he did not want to go to jail.

She said the truck and the contraband had been forfeited to the State.

"The Benoni Magistrates' Court has sentenced a Zimbabwean truck driver Spencer Shoko (33), to 5 years' imprisonment or a fine of R20000," said Ms Mahanjana.

"Shoko was arrested on October 25, by the Flying Squad Unit of the South African Police Service for delivering raw tobacco at Benoni, which was in transit to outside the country".

She said according to South African Revenue Services regulations, the raw tobacco was to be kept at a customs warehouse in Pretoria, until customs duties of more than R500 000 were paid, or the goods released legally.

"Advocate Tumelo Mokoena asked the court to impose a sentence of 5 years or a fine of triple the value of the goods.  However, the magistrate noted that Shoko was the driver of the truck earning 400 US dollars and is a breadwinner, therefore the sentence given was appropriate," added Ms Mahanjana.

She said charges against a South African Ishmael Bhamjee (37) who was at the warehouse where the raw tobacco was delivered were provisionally withdrawn after Shoko took responsibility for the offence.

Criminal investigations, she added were ongoing against the importer.

South Africa has become one of the major destinations and conduits where mostly cigarettes are smuggled through Beitbridge border post or illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.

It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.

South Africa's tax watchdog, Tax Justice SA (TJSA) has since accused cigarettes manufacturers in the neighbouring country of paying lip service to tax laws following the surge in tobacco smuggling.

The demand for Zimbabwe's tobacco and related products by other countries has seen the establishment of well-orchestrated syndicates who facilitate the illegal trade and smuggling of the gold leaf into various countries.

It is also difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa because of the high excise duty rates in that country (on tobacco or cigarettes).

Cigarettes into the neighbouring country are imported from Zimbabwe at a rate of R6.21 per 10 cigarettes.

Source - The Chronicle
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