PRETORIA, 25 November 2015 – Vigilant customs officials thwarted two attempts to smuggle illicit cigarettes worth R4,2 million into the country at two border posts in one day.
At the Groblersbridge border post the Customs team detained R3,6 million worth of illicit cigarettes from a truck coming from Zambia en route to Boksburg in Gauteng. At Beit Bridge a midnight search on the eve of 23 November resulted in another discovery of R623 000 worth of illicit cigarettes in a hidden container en route to a South African destination.
Thanks to the vigilance of a Customs Inspector at Groblersbridge, who noted a suspicious engagement between a truck driver and clearing agents, almost 18 000 cartons of cigarettes were found hidden in a false compartment of an almost empty container. The customs official noticed an unusual interaction between a truck driver and clearing agents within the import control area. Confident that “a deal” was being closed, he notified a SAPS officer. The truck driver and clearing agents were then linked to a specific truck, where, upon inspection, it was found that the container was bigger on the outside than on the inside. The cigarettes were found in a hidden compartment in the container.
The truck and cigarettes were detained pending a criminal investigation, and a Zambian national was arrested in connection with suspected smuggling.
See pictures below.
At Beit Bridge, a Customs officer conducting searches stopped a truck for a routine check at approximately 22:45 on 23 November when he discovered the driver did not have a temporary import permit. This prompted him to search the seemingly empty truck. He found 3135 cartons of Pacific Blue cigarettes in a false compartment underneath the trailer.
This is not the first time this officer’s trained eye thwarted smuggling attempts. In August 2015 he intercepted 14.5kg of Ephedrine drugs worth R5 million, as well as intercepting another truck carrying illicit Cigarettes in false compartment in September 2015.
The driver from Zimbabwe was arrested and the truck and cigarettes detained.
These add to the significant seizures by SARS Customs officials who implement daily inspections in an effort to foil smuggling of goods, as is evident from seizures of approximately 61,5 million cigarettes valued at R54,3 million so far during this financial year (between April and October 2015).
SARS will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to protect the country and its citizens by disrupting organised crime and reducing illicit trade activities.