SARS’ Customs Response Unit seized illicit cigarettes worth millions from Cape Town traders during raids on Thursday, 29 July.
The Customs National Rapid Response Team of the South African National Revenue Service (SARS) hit Cape Town traders hard on Thursday, 29 July and seized illicit cigarettes worth R6 million. On Saturday, the revenue service said more than 400 master cases of cigarettes were confiscated during the intelligence-driven operation during the week.
Thursday’s raids in Cape Town led to the seizure of 443 master cases that each contained 50 cartons of various cigarette brands. The SARS team was assisted by other government law enforcement agencies.
SARS head Edward Kieswetter said the import of illicit cigarettes and other contraband such as clothing, textiles, fake medicines and grey imports of motor vehicles destroys South African industry and contributes to job losses.
“These activities rob the country of much needed revenue that enables government to deliver basic services to the poor and vulnerable, such as old age pensions, and offer relief to struggling businesses and their employees following the recent riots,” said Kieswetter.
He also warned that illicit cigarettes pose an even greater risk to smokers as they do not comply with South African health regulations.
Kieswetter said there is a “strong connection” between illicit trade activities and international crime syndicates that partake in human trafficking, gun running, drug smuggling and terrorism.
“SARS has a mandate to facilitate legitimate trade and will not tolerate illicit trade that harms our economy and our people, which is aligned with our strategic objective to make it hard and costly for those who do not comply with our tax and customs and excise legislation,” said the SARS commissioner.