Tshwane, Tuesday 22 June 2021 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has begun to destroy more than 2000 master boxes of illicit cigarettes with potential protected revenue estimated at R17.4 Million in Pretoria today.
The cigarettes were either illicitly imported or illicitly manufactured in the country in contravention of Customs and Excise legislation, said Mr Beyers Theron, Director: Customs Border Operations, Ports of Entry and Customs Compliance.
He added that the seizure and destruction of illicit goods was an achievement based on the “whole of government approach” that is embedded in the Inter-Agency Working Group set up to deal with illicit trade in an integrated and co-ordinated manner.
Other sectors that are severely impacted by illicit trade, and that forms part of the SARS focus, include clothing & textiles, leather and footwear, fuel, poultry, second-hand vehicles, gold and scrap metal. Then there are unregistered medicaments which are supposed to treat various health ailments, but have not been scientifically tested,” Mr Theron added.
Based on Customs enforcement statistics, there was a total of 1150 Seizures equating to 181 668 974 sticks in the 2020/2021 financial year with an estimated value of R219 870 354 and R92 182 of seized tobacco amounting to a potential prejudice in duties and VAT estimated at over R163-million.
This was a more than 100% increase against the previous financial year (2019/20) that yielded 445 seizures with a value of R103,5 million. Seizure trends per port of entry for the 2020/2021 financial year shows that most cigarette seizures occurred at Beit Bridge, Groblers Bridge, Kopfontein, Lebombo and Skilpadshek border posts.
Mr Theron said citizens should note the risks associated with illicit imports:
- It reduces the revenue the country collects, revenue which is needed to provide basic services to all South Africans including the poor and vulnerable.
- It destroys local industries, leading to factory closures, job losses and further erosion of the tax base.
- Some of these goods present a public health hazard, putting a strain on the health care system.
- It contributes to higher levels of criminality, including bribery and corruption, as well as drawing the country into various syndicates of organised crime drug-smuggling, gun-running and human trafficking.
He said SARS Customs had recently established the National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) as an effort to compliment front-line operations and to provide agile and flexible deployment operations to major areas of risk.
The NRRT is also responsible for rapid deployments at checkpoints at identified hotspots in all major provinces and ports of entry. Many of the cigarettes seizures being destroyed can be attributed to the efforts of the Customs front-line supported by the National Rapid Response team.
Earlier this month, Customs officials at Beitbridge, supported by SAPS and the South African National Defence Force, began to destroy illlicit cigarettes from previous seizures valued at over R30-million.
See the photos.