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11 Zimbabwean men, 10-car cigarette smuggling convoy intercepted in SA

by Staff reporter
12 Feb 2023 at 07:22hrs | Views
South African police have intensified their crackdown on the smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe via Beitbridge and illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River, seizing five vehicles and cigarettes worth more than R400 000 on Thursday, arresting 11 of the suspected Zimbabwean smugglers.

Police cornered the five vehicles after a high-speed car chase with the help of a farm watch, and after a fist fight with the farm watch members, the 11 were arrested. Another five vehicles in the same smuggling convoy escaped.

Limpopo police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said police were not relenting in their quest to dismantle the cigarette syndicates.

"Members of the Limpopo Tracking Team and Capricorn Highway Patrol operationalised information received about 10 motor vehicles that were smuggling illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa."

The convoy was driving south down the N1 Road from Musina to Louis Trichardt direction.

The security team caught up with them along the Piesanghoek Road where they had detoured to avoid police. On sight of the police, the Zimbabweans sped off and a high speed chase ensued.

Five vehicles were then cornered with the help of members of the Louis Trichardt Farm Watch. The other five managed to escape.

"The cornered group tried to engage in a fistfight with Farm Watch members but they were ultimately subdued and apprehended. The five vehicles were found loaded with cigarettes," said Brig Mojapelo.

All 11 suspects were found to be undocumented Zimbabweans.

He said police had seized two BMWs, a Ford Territory, Nissan Pathfinder and an Audi A4 and 31 crate-boxes and 407 packs of cigarettes at an estimated value of R426 640.

"The intensification of intelligence driven operations to prevent the smuggling of illicit cigarettes into the country led to the arrest of 11 suspects," said Brig Mojapelo.

"We also seized illicit cigarettes and five of the 10 motor vehicles that were transporting them along the Piesanghoek Road in the early hours of Thursday."

The suspects will appear before a Louis Trichardt magistrate soon charged for dealing with and possession of illicit cigarettes, contravention of the Immigration Act and resisting arrest, plus, for the drivers, reckless and negligent driving and driving a motor vehicle without a driving licence.

Limpopo police commanders, Lieutenant-General Thembi Hadebe commended her subordinates for a well-coordinated operation.

She also thanked members of the Farm Watch for assisting the police in fighting crime.

A few days ago a 45-year-old Zimbabwean man was jailed for an effective five years in South Africa for smuggling a contraband of cigarettes worth over R300 000.

Oliver Mupanga was sent to prison without an option of fine and added another three months' imprisonment, for entering South Africa without a passport when he appeared at the Senwabarwana Regional Court.

The sentences will run concurrently and the vehicle a Toyota Corolla with Registration number CMT 730 L was forfeited to the State.

The man was also declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The main driver of the smuggling operations is the huge gap in tobacco taxes. Smugglers can buy cigarettes in Zimbabwe at wholesale or retail prices, and so paying the Zimbabwean tobacco taxes.

If they then smuggle them into South Africa they can sell these at a steep discount to the price of South African taxed cigarettes and still make huge profits.

The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River is rife.

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

Ideally a carboard crate of cigarette cartons is bought at US$120 from local producers and sold for between US$250 and US$300 to the syndicates who then smuggle it into South Africa where it sells for anything above R15 000.

Those that illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per cardboard crate and in most cases this is done under the cover of darkness.

Source - The Herald
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