Smoke and mirrors: cartels flood SA with illicit cigarettes

09 July 2018 - 07:00 By Graeme Hosken
A vendor displays cigarettes in the Johannesburg CBD. The illicit trade of cigarettes is said to have a huge impact on the political economy of SA.
A vendor displays cigarettes in the Johannesburg CBD. The illicit trade of cigarettes is said to have a huge impact on the political economy of SA.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Cigarette smuggling is exploding in SA as sophisticated transnational organised crime syndicates step up operations‚ flooding the market with “knock-offs”.

Presentations made in May to parliament’s standing committee on finance on the illicit tobacco trade show the country ranks among the world’s top five countries‚ along with Brazil‚ Iraq‚ Malaysia and Pakistan‚ when it comes to the trade in illicit cigarettes.

Advocate Malini Govender‚ of the National Prosecuting Authority’s specialised commercial crimes court‚ who told the committee of SA’s ranking‚ said the illicit trade was a transnational problem that involved neighbouring countries.

In the same committee briefing‚ SARS officials revealed that in the past five financial years‚ 270-million cigarettes valued at R217-million were seized in anti-crime operations.

SARS told Times Select on Friday that since January it had seized more than R33-million worth of cigarettes smuggled into and through the country. In 2017‚ SARS seized R29-million worth of cigarettes.

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