Humint leads to massive illicit cigarette bust


The importance of good civil/military relations in remote parts of South Africa, such as those entrusted to soldiers to maintain territorial integrity and at the minimum cut down on contraband goods entering the country, was again demonstrated in a haul of illicit cigarettes worth over R1 million.

The seizure, at a Limpopo location undisclosed for security reasons, followed information given to SA Army Joint Tactical Headquarters Limpopo by a local farmer. He, according to Captain Moses Semono, is one of a group of farmers in the northernmost province brought into the ambit of Operation Corona by AgriSA, the national representative body of organised agriculture.

4 Artillery Regiment’s Charlie Company, with their guns currently swopped for assault rifles, acting on information from the farmer, swooped on the farm leaving the smugglers no option but to flee. The farmer, seemingly working through an informal network arrangement, alerted the provincial tactical headquarters of “suspicious movement” of people on his farm.

His “suspicions” were realised when the gunners-cum-border guards found discarded cigarettes in containers of varying sizes from master boxes to cartons and individual packets. The haul is conservatively estimated to be worth R1.1 million and is now in the safekeeping of SA Revenue Service customs officers.

Semono, in an almost laconic description of the bust, termed it “another week, another R1 million worth of confiscated illicit cigarettes”.

Other border patrol successes recorded this week included multiple dagga seizures (worth R48 000); the apprehension of a man smuggling petrol from Swaziland and recovery of a stolen Ford Fiesta.

Last week, soldiers on Operation Corona duty added the confiscation of a stolen Toyota Fortuner and illicit cigarettes worth R2 million to their list of border patrol successes.

British American Tobacco (BAT) estimates up to 50% of the total cigarette market in South Africa is made up of illegal sales. Around 27 billion cigarettes are consumed annually in South Africa.