by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE seizure of a truckload of illegal cigarettes reportedly from Zimbabwe underlines the war raging between criminal operators in South Africa’s illicit tobacco trade.
Authorities confirmed the seizure of the cigarettes valued at R13 million (about US$914 000) this past weekend.
The seizure came in the same week as a major independent survey reported that illegal cigarettes were now on sale in three out of every four retail outlets in South Africa’s hotspot provinces.
Yusuf Abramjee, founder of Tax Justice SA (TJSA), said the truck seized was proof, on a massive scale, of the report’s conclusion that the company manufacturing the cigarettes in question were in a price war with criminal members of the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) for control of the illicit market.
“These criminals are so brazen and so big that they’re sending huge trucks around the country to distribute cigarettes in the largest black market in the world,” he said.
“They’re looting our citizens of billions in unpaid taxes at a time when they’re desperately needed to fight the pandemic and rebuild the economy. This is criminality on an industrial scale that should be treated as a public danger and a national priority for law enforcement agencies.”
The sale of cigarettes is an emotive issue in South Africa.
Cigarette sales were banned when the country imposed the first lockdown against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the end of March in 2020.
– CAJ News