By Jonisayi Maromo I Multimedia Journalist, IOL News
SOUTH AFRICA: Smugglers in five vehicles escaped the police in Limpopo on Thursday when the officers tried to intercept a convoy of 10 vehicles transporting illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the convoy deviated from the N1 highway and turned into Piesanghoek Road to avoid police.
“The intensification of intelligence-driven operations to prevent the smuggling of illicit cigarettes into the country led to the arrest of 11 suspects, the seizure of illicit cigarettes and five of the 10 motor vehicles that were transporting them along the Piesanghoek road in the early hours of Thursday, 9 February 2023,” said Mojapelo.
“Members of the Limpopo tracking team and Capricorn highway patrol operationalised information received about 10 motor vehicles which were smuggling illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa. The vehicles were driven in a convoy on the N1 road from Musina in the direction of Louis Trichardt.”
He said the law enforcement team caught up with the vehicles on the Piesanghoek Road after the convoy took a detour to avoid police detection.
“The suspects then sped off and a high-speed chase ensued. Five vehicles were then cornered with the help of members of the Louis Trichardt Farm Watch. The other five managed to evade arrest,” said Mojapelo.
“All 11 suspects were found to be undocumented Zimbabwean nationals who initially tried to engage in a fistfight with the members but they were ultimately subdued and apprehended. The five vehicles were found loaded with illicit cigarettes.”
The police seized two BMWs, a Ford Territory, a Nissan Pathfinder and an Audi A4. The law enforcement team also confiscated 31 boxes and 407 packs of illicit cigarettes with an estimated value of R426 640.
The provincial commissioner of police in Limpopo, Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe, commended the police officers and members of the Farm Watch for “a well-coordinated operation” which led to the arrests.
The suspects, aged between 24 and 43, were scheduled to appear in the Louis Trichardt Magistrate’s Court facing charges of dealing with and possession of illicit cigarettes, the contravention of the Immigration Act, reckless and negligent driving, driving motor vehicles without driving licences and resisting arrest.
“The hunt for the other suspects is continuing. Anyone with information may contact Warrant Officer Phaladi Makola on 082 749 2233 or the Crime Stop number 0860010111,” the SAPS said.