SARS operations net millions in illicit goods

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Several joint operations have seen the South African Revenue Service (SARS) confiscate millions of rands worth of illegal or illicit goods.

The joint operations were conducted through coordinated efforts within SARS over the past month, the revenue collector said.

In a statement, SARS said: “In intelligence-driven operation between enforcement teams within SARS and the SA Police Service (SAPS) took place on 25 October 2022 relating to the prevention and detection of cross-border smuggling and Customs and Excise non-compliance in the cigarette and tobacco industry.

“SARS Enforcement Teams deployed to the East Rand in Gauteng and supported by the SAPS, found a truck offloading raw tobacco, allegedly imported from Zimbabwe, at a warehouse. The team also found a substantial number of boxes with raw tobacco, which had been previously delivered to the warehouse.”

It was further established that the tobacco, which was destined for a bonded warehouse, had been illegally diverted to an unregistered warehouse.

“This is in contravention of the Customs and Excise Act,” SARS said on Thursday.

The Joint Enforcement Teams conducted a full inspection, and the following goods were detained for further investigation:

  • 472 boxes of raw tobacco with a Customs value of R10 919 000 (Incl. duties & Vat)
  • Truck transporting the raw tobacco boxes to the value of R2 500 000.

Two arrests were made and the investigation is continuing.

Meanwhile, on 23 October, a Customs officer stationed at Kopfontein conducted an inspection of a truck that entered South Africa from Botswana.

The officer noticed some irregularities and instructed the driver to open the wooden compartment. Eighteen men were found to be hidden in the false compartment underneath the trailer. It is suspected that the men were from Malawi and attempted to enter the country illegally. The case was referred to the Department of Home Affairs and SAPS.

Between 18 and 21 October, checkpoints were set up on the main roads near ports of entry in the North West, Limpopo, and Gauteng aimed at the prevention and detection of illegal trade and cross-border smuggling of goods such as cigarettes and tobacco products.

On 19 October 2022 the Customs enforcement team stopped and searched a vehicle outside Mokopane and found the driver in possession of 11 650 bundles of narcotics, namely Khat, with a total weight of 249kg and a value of R700 600.

The driver was arrested, narcotics seized and handed over to the South African Police Service.

A joint intervention between the Customs and Excise National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) and SAPS in Gauteng on 13 October 2022 also led to the detection and detention of the following illicit / illegal goods:

  • Illicit alcohol, packaging and distillery machinery to the value of R1 525 800
  • Illicit cigarette and tobacco products: 653 master cases each containing 50 cartons of cigarettes to the value of R9 118 355.
  • Suspected illegally imported clothing, textile, leather, and footwear to the value of R 1 500 000.

The NRRT and the SAPS responded to information about a warehouse with possible illicit tobacco products in Fordsburg, Johannesburg on 7 October and upon inspection, the team found chewing tobacco products.

The trader could not present the required proof of importation documents and as such, a detention was issued with an estimated value R100 000 pending further investigations into smuggling of illicit tobacco products.

On 29 September, Enforcement Teams within SARS conducted a SARS/SAPS Joint Enforcement Operation in Johannesburg, focusing on suspected smuggled clothing, textile, leather and footwear (CTFL) goods.

This joint intervention resulted in 10 detentions of CTFL goods, suspected to have been smuggled into the country, with possible Intellectual Property Rights infringements. The goods, which are valued at R31 million, are being detained by SARS for further investigations. One person was arrested for alleged attempted bribery during the joint operation.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter congratulated law enforcement officers involved in these joint operations, which led to the confiscation and arrest of suspects involved in the crimes.

He said: “SARS, working with other law enforcement agencies, will continue to ensure that those who are involved in violation of the laws of our country will be confronted and dealt with decisively. To the non-compliant taxpayers, we would like to send the message that SARS will make it hard and costly for those engaging in criminal malfeasance”.