40 boxes, each containing 500 packets of cigarettes, were seized by the police
THREE men caught with R900 000 worth of illicit cigarettes were arrested near the Hluhluwe Game Reserve in central KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.
According to KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala Hluhluwe, the SAPS were conducting an operation when they stopped three bakkies travelling on the road.
“A search was conducted and 40 boxes, each containing 500 packets of cigarettes, were seized by police.
“The street value of the recovered cigarettes is estimated at R900 000,” said Gwala.
She said the three suspects, aged between 28 and 54, were placed under arrest.
“One of the suspects, aged 33, also faces charges pertaining to being an illegal immigrant.”
Gwala said all the suspects are expected to appear in court soon for being in possession of illicit cigarettes.
The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, said this arrest will send a clear message to others who are contemplating smuggling illicit cigarettes.
“Operations are in place to combat all forms of criminality in the province,” said Jula.
Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, the chairperson of the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association said that since the lockdown ban there had been an increase in break-ins and thefts from shops and storage facilities which stock so-called “non-essential” goods such as cigarettes
It would take a while to see how much the lockdown would affect the use of illegal cigarettes, but already, those selling them are using new methods to move their product.
Tax Justice South Africa head Yusuf Abramjee had last week said: “We are seeing how the black market is flooding the market again. People are trading illegal cigarettes on Facebook. They are selling them in parking lots. It is defeating the purpose of a lockdown.”