Thupeyo Muleya – Beitbridge Office
The trial of a 52-year-old Zimbabwean who was recently arrested with R30 million of contraband cigarettes in South Africa has been set for January 17 next year in Polokwane Magistrates’ Court in the province of Limpopo.
Alec Muthanguro, allegedly linked to a racketeering racket by cigarette smugglers operating in Beitbridge and South Africa, was arrested along with a contraband of 3,000 Remmington Gold cigarettes on October 26 in Polokwane.
Limpopo spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Ms. Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi, said the accused was released on R20,000 bail pending further investigation.
She said the man was ordered to hand over his passport and report once a week to Kempton Park Police Station in Ekurhuleni.
Provincial police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the arrest of the accused was part of their intensified fight against the illegal trade and smuggling of illicit cigarettes across the province.
“Police have received reports of a commercial truck carrying a huge consignment of illicit cigarettes which is said to have crossed the country through the Beitbridge border post and headed for Polokwane,” he said.
“An instant operation by a team comprising the Limpopo Provincial Monitoring Team and the Crime Intelligence Unit was triggered and the truck matching the description given was spotted along the Dendron / Polokwane road.
“He was then pulled over and arrested at the intersection next to the traffic department.”
Brigadier Mojapelo said the man was then escorted to nearby Polokwane International Airport where the truck was searched.
He said police found more than 3,000 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with an estimated market value of R30 million loaded on the truck.
Muthanguro was arrested for smuggling and possession of illicit cigarettes.
South Africa is one of the main destinations and routes for cigarettes smuggled through the Beitbridge border post or the Limpopo River.
It is understood that 30% of cigarettes in the neighboring country, including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles, come from Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s tax watchdog, Tax Justice SA (TJSA), accuses neighboring country’s cigarette makers of lip service to tax laws following the increase in contraband tobacco.
The organization’s founder, Mr. Yusuf Abramjee, recently said that surveys by IPSOS market researchers found that 85% of GLTC-owned brands purchased during the survey were sold below the minimum tax rate. collection fee (MCT) of R21.60 per packet.
He said they also established that every package (99%) of Remington Gold purchased in the survey was lower than MCT and that some were sold for as little as R10.
It is difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa due to the high excise rates there (on tobacco or cigarettes).
Imports of cigars, Cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes, tobacco or tobacco substitutes into South Africa are billed at the rate of R 6.21 per 10 cigarettes.