South Africa’s legal tobacco industry is greatly encouraged by recent actions against the importers and manufacturers of illegal cigarettes.
Three recent actions stand out:
- SARS’ application to liquidate Verbena Freight and Logistics Management cc, which owes the receiver R18.8-billion in unpaid customs duty, R31-million in VAT, R73-million in income tax and R477 000 in PAYE. The action relates to the “disappearance” of 30 tons of tobacco that was handled by the Beit Bridge-based freight company.
- SARS’ raid on an unregistered plant manufacturing molasses and shisha tobacco products in Gauteng. The plant is linked to a licensed cigarette manufacturer, but it seems clear, from the items confiscated during the raid, that their end-product was illicit.
- Search and seizure operations conducted by SARS on three shops in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, which netted illicit cigarettes worth R400 000 and 1 337 cartons of illicit molasses.
“These are significant breakthroughs in the war on illicit tobacco products, and the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance is greatly encouraged by the growing appetite that SARS is showing towards dealing with the criminal networks involved,” says SATTA spokesperson Zacharia Motsumi.
“Our farmers, processors and manufacturers commend SARS for the work they are doing to protect our industry and push back against the illicit sector, which has been rampant since the COVID-19 lockdowns were announced,
“These actions are particularly good news for the black tobacco farmers who have recently entered the industry and have seen their hard work undermined by smugglers who bring in tobacco from neighbouring countries and get up to all sorts of nonsense.
“We agree with SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter when it comes to the impact of the illicit sector: it destroys the economy, which in turn leads to job losses, inequality and poverty.
“These breakthroughs are significant, and we trust that SARS and law enforcement agencies will continue their good work, so that the legal tobacco industry can claw back market share and ensure that our tax-paying, law-abiding members can continue to operate.“On our side, we will continue with our Know Your Smoke campaign which educates consumers on how to spot illicit cigarettes by their low prices, and we encourage consumers to empower themselves by watching our educational video on our website (https://tobaccotransformationalliance.co.za) or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXHDUPTO3HQ”
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