By Kaya 959 Reporter
Gauteng police have arrested five men and seized R10 million worth of illegal cigarettes in a sting operation on Monday.
Police arrested the men in Sandton with the consignment of illicit cigarettes.
“Crime intelligence information was operationalised by Provincial Organised Crime Unit, West Rand K9 Unit and SARS Customs officials. The team stopped and searched a truck with five occupants at Greyston Square whereby a consignment of illicit cigarettes was discovered,” police say.
The suspects are due in the Sandton Magistrates’ Court soon.
They face a charge of possession of illicit cigarettes. The police investigation is continuing.
Illicit cigarettes trade in the spotlight
Last month, police seized illicit cigarettes valued at R30m in Limpopo. Police arrested one person. The suspect was allegedly transporting the consignment from Zimbabwe.
British American Tobacco SA says illegal cigarettes today account for approximately 33% of all cigarettes sold in South Africa.
“Such cigarettes are particularly prominent in the informal trade, where they make up an astounding 42% of the informal market.”
BAT SA adds that the South African tobacco value chain experienced an unprecedented increase in illicit trade during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
This was due to the government prohibiting the sale of cigarettes prohibited between risk-adjusted alert levels 3 to 5.
BAT SA says the illicit tobacco trade exploded from approximately 30% of the total market to 100% of the total market as illicit tobacco value chains were strengthened.
“The illegal tobacco trade is not only a threat to our business but also a more serious national and social threat – that of organised crime.
“For BAT SA, protecting consumers and our business from the illegal tobacco trade is imperative. Doing so not only helps to address a significant threat to the viability of our business and industry, but also a more serious national and social threat to South Africa: organised crime and corruption,” it says.