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By Amanda Watson

News Editor

Gold Leaf Tobacco denies tax evasion, blames BAT

BAT is dumping illicit cigarettes into the market and takes most of its profits out of SA, Gold Leaf CEO Ebrahim Adamjee charges.

The Gold Leaf Tobacco Company lashed out yesterday at accusations by the Tobacco Institute of South Africa (Tisa) it was responsible for up to 75% of the illegal tobacco trade in the country.

“We emphatically deny being involved in any tax evasive practices whatsoever and rubbish all allegations levelled against us in this regard,” GLTC CEO Ebrahim Adamjee said in a statement yesterday.

“We have been constant contributors to the fiscus and take pride in our contribution to the country. We have, in the last 12 years, paid an amount of nearly R8.2 billion in excise duties alone.”

Adamjee said the Ipsos report – commissioned by Tisa – had “audited” 2 058 stores.

“On the report’s own version, the 2 058 stores audited comprise a mere 1.5% of the total market,” said Adamjee. “The report then uses this 1.5% of data to make estimations or projections about the entire market and provides unsubstantiated information, thereby totally misleading the media and the public.”

Adamjee went on the attack, accusing British American Tobacco of dumping illicit cigarettes into the market.

Tisa chairman Francois van der Merwe said on Thursday in the illegal tobacco trade, top seller RG was followed by Savannah (both from GLTC), Caesar from Best Tobacco Company and Sharp, also from GLTC.

“The brand portfolio of ATM (Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturers) makes this company the third-largest player after GLTC and Best Tobacco Company. The research attributed brands to manufacturers via the packaging itself and/or manufacturers’ public websites,” said Van der Merwe.

The study into the illegal cigarette trade was released after the former Head of Enforcement at Sars, Gene Ravele, told the Nugent Inquiry the decision to continue to allow the illegal trade in cigarettes to flourish was “planned”.

Adamjee said GLTC was a “fully South African incorporated entity” and did not send any profits out of the country.

“BAT, on the other hand, is 88.61% foreign owned and therefore the majority of profits are taken out of South Africa,” said Adamjee.

ALSO READ: How ‘Big Tobacco’ derailed Sars’ investigative ability

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