An unregistered tobacco-manufacturing plant that produces molasses tobacco products has been uncovered during a search-and-seizure operation conducted in Gauteng by the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
The revenue-collection agency said the plant was linked to a licensed cigarette manufacturer, after members of its National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) and the Illicit Trade Unit found branded tobacco products on the premises.
The manufacturing plant, machines and molasses have been confiscated for further tax and customs legislation investigations.
The multi-agency enforcement team also conducted search-and-seizure operations on three shops in Fordsburg, targeting illicit tobacco products.
The team found 1,337 cartons of illegal molasses and cigarettes worth R400,000.
The goods were removed pending import/local purchase documentation, quantity verification and further investigations on whether the correct taxes were paid to Sars.
During the operation, one of the shop owners attempted to bribe one of the Sars officials “to make the case go away” with approximately R30,000.
A criminal case has been opened with the police for attempted bribery and the owner was arrested.
City Deep raid
In another operation, the NRRT inspected a 40-foot container load at one of the licensed depots in City Deep.
The consignment was declared as playing cards imported from China to South Africa via the Durban harbour to City Deep.
But officials uncovered a full container load of various clothing items with a declared customs value of R550,000.
The clothing was also confiscated, and a criminal case was opened for smuggling and fraud.
Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the organisation was committed to making it complicated and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and traders.
He said such non-compliance, trade in illicit goods, and criminal activities destroy the economy, leading to job losses, inequality, and poverty.
“Most importantly, these criminal activities reduce the revenue that Sars collects,” said Kieswetter.