Citizen Reporter
Reporter
2 minute read
10 Dec 2021
12:25 pm

Sars seizes illegal cigarettes, hookah tobacco worth R40 million

Citizen Reporter

Sars boss Edward Kieswetter says importers and exporters of illicit products need to know that Sars uses modernised systems for risk detection and identification of suspicious cargo.

The remnants of the destroyed illegal cigarettes during a media event at Lehae La SARS in Brooklyn, Pretoria, on 22 June 2021. The event was to showcase the work by Customs in intecepting and destroying illegal/illicit cigarettes which causes the country to lose lots of tax revenue. They also showcased some of their other work. Picture: Neil McCartney

The customs division of South African Revenue Service (Sars) has confiscated illicit cigarettes, hookah tobacco and scrap metal worth R40 million.

The illegal cigarettes, valued at R35 million, were detected at the Durban Harbour and another batch worth R3 million was found in Polokwane.

The customs and illicit trade divisions carried out the operations with the support of the South African Police Service (Saps) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).

In Polokwane, Saps intercepted a truck with cigarettes and alerted Sars officials.

Officials found 276 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with no SA diamond stamp, valued at R3 million.

Inside the truck, officials also found a consignment of scrap metal with a customs value of R160,000. The truck entered the country via the Beitbridge border post. Four suspects have been arrested.

The 432 boxes of hookah tobacco, valued at R2 million, were detected in City Deep, Johannesburg, and declared as sugar molasses being warehoused for export to Malawi.

But intelligence revealed the tobacco was intended for distribution on the local market.

The illicit cigarettes bust at Durban Harbour took place after Sars used its modern risk and targeting systems to identify the consignments that were being imported by a repeat offender. The consignments were incorrectly declared as ceramic mugs and adhesive tape. 

The consignment consisted of three containers that concealed 1,800 master cases of Remington Gold cigarettes and 1,245 master cases of foreign brands not registered for sale in South Africa.

Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said importers and exporters of illicit products needed to know that Sars used modernised systems for risk detection and identification of suspicious cargo.

“The use of the latest technology, big data, algorithms and machine learning to detect and deter non-compliance is one of our strategic objectives and falls within our mission to build a smart, modern Sars that is admired and trusted. We strive for voluntary compliance but will deal harshly with wilful non-compliance and criminal activity,” said Kieswetter.

Compiled by Narissa Subramoney