SA officials intercept truck smuggling cigarettes worth R20m; contraband came through Beitbridge disguised as tea leaves

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SOUTH AFRICA: Law enforcement authorities have detained a truck that was ferrying illicit cigarettes worth some R20 million on Monday, after it was stopped in Bronkhorstspruit and the driver fled the scene.

The illicit cigarettes were brought through the Beitbridge border, where the consignment was falsely declared as tea leaves, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Tuesday. 

Around 1 000 master cases of illicit cigarettes, valued at a tax prejudice of R20 million, were found on the truck, according to the Revenue Service.

Sars was part of the law enforcement team that intercepted the truck, together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Tshwane Metro Police, after responding to a tip-off.

“The truck was stopped at Bronkhorstspruit. On being approached, the driver fled the scene and the truck and its consignment was detained,” Sars said. 

It added that the truck and its content were moved to a secure Sars facility, pending an investigation.


Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the smuggling of the cigarettes displaces legitimate manufactures and affect taxes and the country’s fiscus.

“The country is battling the scourge of illicit cigarettes, smuggled from a neighbouring country, with a view to not only displace legitimate manufacturers but to also deprive fiscus of all taxes due,” said Kieswetter.

“The message to crooks engaged in this criminal enterprise is that we will not tire to confront and deal with them decisively. The clarion call is, comply or face the consequences,” he added.

He further thanked the individual that reported the matter to law enforcement authorities that ultimately led to the impounding of the truck.