PRETORIA: Members of a cigarette-smuggling syndicate transporting illicit cigarettes worth almost R2 million in a four-car convoy abandoned their vehicles and ran away from members of the SAPS in Limpopo.
Police arrested two of the suspects along the N1 north near Louis Trichardt and recovered the illicit cigarettes worth R1.7m.
Lieutenant Colonel Malesela Ledwaba said the convoy was intercepted after the SAPS received a tip-off about a group of suspects travelling in a number of vehicles, transporting illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
“The four vehicles were spotted driving in a convoy, and police tried to stop them but they sped off. A car chase ensued and the suspects abandoned the vehicles and ran on foot towards the nearby farms,” said Ledwaba.
“Police managed to arrest two of the suspects aged 37 and 45, who are both foreign nationals.”
The four vehicles, a Ford Territory SUV, a Toyota Quantum, a Volvo SUV and a Nissan Hardbody were searched and about 130 boxes containing illicit cigarettes worth R1.7m were confiscated.
“Preliminary police investigations have also revealed that the suspects were in the country illegally,” said Ledwaba.
“The suspects will appear before the Makhado Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, Tuesday, 26 April 2022 facing charges of dealing in illicit cigarettes and contravention of the Illegal Immigration Act.”
Provincial commissioner of police in Limpopo, Lieutenant-General Thembi Hadebe, applauded the members for their vigilance and determination.
Hadebe also appealed to community members to assist police in the ongoing manhunt for the suspects who evaded arrest.
Last year, two members of the SANDF were arrested for allegedly transporting illicit cigarettes across the border with Zimbabwe, using an SANDF vehicle.
At the time, police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the two SANDF members were arrested along with a 30-year-old undocumented foreign national who was travelling with them.
He said police at Beitbridge received information about an army vehicle loaded with illicit cigarettes which were to be delivered to an unidentified buyer around Musina.
“They then reacted by staging a stop-and-search operation next to the Baobab Truck Park along the N1 road north of Musina. The army vehicle fitting the description given approached and the members pulled it over,” Mojapelo said.
The soldiers and the civilian who was wearing an South African Army jacket alighted from the vehicle, which was then searched and 12 boxes of illicit cigarettes were found.