Tshwane, 10 December 2021 – The Customs Division of South African Revenue Service (SARS), using modern risk detection systems and working with other law enforcement agencies, have seized illicit cigarettes, hookah-pipe tobacco and scrap metal with a total tax prejudice of R40-million.
The illegal cigarettes were detected at the Durban harbour, valued at R35-million, and in Polokwane, valued at R3-million. A consignment of illicit scrap metal with a Customs value of R160 000 was also detained in Polokwane.
The 432 boxes of hookah-pipe tobacco, valued at R 2-million, was detected in City Deep and was declared as sugar molasses being warehoused for export to Malawi. However, information indicated that the tobacco was intended for distribution on the local market.
Units of the SARS 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).
The seizure of the illicit cigarettes at the 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 which concealed 1800 master cases of RG cigarettes and 1245 master cases of foreign brands not registered for sale in South Africa.
In Polokwane, the SAPS intercepted a truck with cigarettes and alerted SARS officials. The Illicit Trade Unit of SARS searched the truck and 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 Beit Bridge border post. Four suspects were arrested.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said importers and exporters of illicit products need to take note that SARS uses 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,” Mr Kieswetter added.
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