A 47-year-old Zimbabwean national was caught entering South Africa at the Beitbridge border with illicit cigarettes valued at more than R21 million.
Peter Tambudze appeared in Musina Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo on Thursday where he is facing charges of fraud, false declaration, and possession of illicit cigarettes.
The matter was postponed to 14 February for a formal bail application, according to News24.
What happened: It is alleged that on 19 January, Tambudze arrived at the Beitbridge border post from Zimbabwe driving a truck with two trailers.
Limpopo National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi said:
He declared on the SAD 500/Entry form that he is transporting cotton.
Along the way from Musina, police officers stopped the truck and searched it. They found that the truck was loaded with illicit cigarettes worth over R21 million, and he was arrested.
Police subsequently confiscated the truck, two trailers, and the cigarettes.
In a similar matter:
Six people appeared in the Mable Hall Periodical Court for possession of illicit cigarettes worth more than R5 million.
It is alleged that Jan Botha, 42, Ekman Eddie, 34, Harley Reegan, 29, Sibanda Clement, 42, De Well Elton, 34, and Bhikoo Ephraim, 57, were arrested after being found in possession of the cigarettes on 27 January.
Malabi-Dzhangi said it is alleged that upon police arrival, the suspects were in the process of packaging the cigarettes inside a gas tank at Toitskraal farm.
The police allegedly found Bhikoo Ephraim, who is the owner of the farm, and they also found two suspects who were inside the gas tanker offloading cigarettes.
The driver of the gas tanker ran away and was still at large.
Police confiscated three trucks, a gas tanker, an Isuzu bakkie, Toyota Auris, and cigarettes.
The matter has been transferred to Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crimes Court for bail applications on 15 February.
The cigarette brands were not stated. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns, South Africa has recorded an influx of cigarettes originating from Zimbabwe.
They became freely available on the black market at a fraction of the cost of more established brands such as Marlboro, manufactured by Philip Morris and it is alleged that the treasury lost billions of Rands in revenue each month.
Smuggled brands include Remington Gold (RG) cigarettes, one of Gold Leaf’s brands. This has resulted in South African authorities opening a case on illicit tobacco, gold and fuel transactions against Simon Rudland, a Zimbabwe-based tycoon and co-owner of Gold Leaf Tobacco.
Rudland and his Gold Leaf Tobacco say they could not be held responsible for cigarettes legitimately bought in Zimbabwe and smuggled across the border.
Last year, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) reported that Zimbabwe had lost US$248 million to illicit cigarette deals.