Illicit cigarettes and a stolen vehicle the latest haul for Op Corona soldiers

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South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers on Operation Corona duty have added the confiscation of a stolen Toyota Fortuner and illicit cigarettes worth R2 million to their list of border patrol successes.

The SANDF said that over the last five days, members of 4 Artillery Regiment confiscated over R2 million worth of illicit cigarettes and two vehicles transporting them, drawing praise from the Officer Commanding Joint Tactical Headquarters Limpopo, Colonel Choene Samuel Mabotja.

In Mapungubwe National Park, in a joint operation with game rangers, SANDF members confiscated illicit cigarettes valued at R403 690 together with a Volkswagen van worth R130 000. At the Echo 3 ambush site, soldiers confiscated illicit cigarettes valued at R350 913. At Yellow Gate, South African soldiers confiscated illicit cigarettes valued at R897 215 as well as a Toyota Hilux Bakkie valued at R80 000. In Musina, soldiers confiscated illicit cigarettes valued at R252 313.

The SANDF noted that around a third of the 27 billion cigarettes consumed annually in South Africa are illicit and untaxed, although British American Tobacco estimates that up to 50% of the overall cigarette market in the country is made up of illegal sales.

The SANDF said it aims to preserve the 130 000 jobs in the tobacco industry when it confiscates illicit cigarettes being smuggled across the borders.

Apart from cigarettes, SANDF troops also recently recovered a stolen Toyota Fortuner, worth R720 000. Soldiers from 7 South African Infantry Battalion (7 SAI) deployed on the South Africa/Mozambique borderline were conducting routine patrols when they intercepted a 2017 silver Fortuner that was about to cross into Mozambique. When the two occupants spotted patrolling soldiers, they stopped the vehicle and made a dash for bushes, narrowly escaping with the vehicle keys. The vehicle was reported to have been stolen in the Springs area (Gauteng) and a case was opened at the Springs Police Station.

The incident brought 7 SAI’s tally to 17 vehicles recovered since September 2021.