The illegal cigarette trade still thrives in SA, despite the fact that the tobacco ban ended more than three months ago. The controversial era of prohibition opened the door for illicit businesses to peddle cheaper, tax-free products – undermining SARS’ ability to collect revenue. But one tax official has gone down the route of ‘if you can not beat them, join them…’
SARS OFFICIAL BUSTED IN HUGE ILLEGAL CIGARETTES RAID
It was revealed on Wednesday that a SARS representative was nabbed for trafficking roughly R9 million’s worth of illegal cigarettes into Mzansi – the truck was even cleared by customs at Beitbridge, before police in Limpopo busted the operation. Another two suspects were arrested in connection with this brazen smuggling attempt.
Three people, including a @sarstax official, have been arrested near Tshilwavhusiku in Limpopo. Police found almost R9m worth of illicit cigarettes. The truck was stopped on the N1. It was “cleared” by Customs at the Beit Bridge border. @TaxJustice_SA @SAPoliceService pic.twitter.com/vfOqAITUyC— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) December 9, 2020
WHO SOLD THE MOST ILLEGAL CIGARETTES DURING LOCKDOWN
Several brands have been identified as ‘money-spinners’ during the five-month tobacco ban. One particular supplier was selling upwards of 10.7 million illegal cigarettes per day. According to officials of Tax Justice SA (TJSA), there were six brands that saw sales soar past the ‘one-million-per-day’ mark when our ciggies were pulled from the shelves.
- RG Cigarettes: 10.7 million sales per day
- Sharp: 5.2 million sales per day
- Chicago: 5.0 million sales per day
- Remington: 4.9 million sales per day
- Savannah: 1.8 million sales per day
- Voyager: 1.0 million sales per day
‘FURTHER ACTION REQUIRED’ TO STOP TOBACCO SMUGGLERS
Yusuf Abramjee is a consultant for TJSA. He has accused the illegal cigarette smugglers of ‘systematically looting South Africa’. He claims that the illicit operation now forms ‘the biggest black market in the world’:
“Authorities must account for why criminals have been handed control of a hugely lucrative cigarette trade so they can systematically loot South Africans of vital funds needed to save lives, feed the hungry, and build a better future.”
“Illicit cigarettes have been flooding over our borders since criminals took control of the market during the lockdown ban. They’ve set up the world’s biggest black market and make billions while our sick economy is being starved of vital funds.”Yusuf Abramjee