The seizure and subsequent search of an 18 metre truck/trailer rig transporting millions of Rands worth of illegal cigarettes at the Beit Bridge port of entry by soldiers is a further indication of the size and value of the South African illegal cigarette market.
A SA National Defence Force (SANDF) debrief of border operations in the Musina area during the second half of February brought to light the high incidence of cigarette smuggling into South Africa from Zimbabwe.
A statement from base headquarters in the border town has it that soldiers confiscated cigarettes from undocumented persons (illegal immigrants) carrying mostly cartons as well as from bakkies, in cartons and master boxes, and the “mother lode” of smuggled cigarettes for the month.
The massive haul was found in the covered load bay of the 18 metre truck/trailer rig following a tip-off.
According to the statement, the driver abandoned his vehicle when approached by soldiers, at that time doing border protection (Operation Corona) and Operation Ligcolo (crime prevention and humanitarian aid) duty.
Inside the load bay soldiers found hundreds of boxes. Inspection and a lengthy count showed 226 master boxes with 61 300 cartons of cigarettes valued at over R16.363 million. The massive haul of illegal cigarettes was handed to the customs division of the SA Revenue Services for further investigation and disposal.