SARS seizes R5 mn worth of Mandrax manufacturing substance


South African Revenue Service (SARS) Customs officers have seized a substance used to manufacture the drug Mandrax.

This seizure happened while the officers where inspecting a truck that was entering South Africa from Mozambique.

SARS in a statement said inspectors from Lebombo Customs Detector Dog Unit were conducting random searches of cargo at the imports channel at Lebombo Border Post when they stopped a yellow truck with two trailers en route to South Africa.

“The officers engaged the driver, a Zimbabwean citizen, to perform a manual inspection to verify the declared goods, which were declared as boxes of hair extensions. A Customs officer requested the declaration documents from the driver, which were handed over to the officer.

“The seal numbers were verified and found to be correct, and the inspector continued with his search of the rest of the vehicle. A toolbox was opened, and nine bags weighing 22kg of an unknown powder were found. The powder was tested on site by using the Generic and Cocaine test kit, and it was found positive as a narcotics substance,” said the revenue collector.

SARS said the goods and the vehicle were handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for further investigation.

“The SAPS Forensic Laboratory later confirmed that the substance was N-Acetylanthralinic Acid, which is the precursor in the synthesis of Methaqualone (Mandrax) manufacturing.”

The estimated value of the substance is approximately R5 million.

However, said SARS, once this power is used to manufacture Mandrax tablets, the drug would have a hugely higher value.

The truck driver fled the scene during the inspection, and the substance and the vehicle were handed over to the SAPS for further investigation. The vehicle was detained in the SARS State Warehouse.

In a separate incident at the Skilpadshek border post with Botswana, a SARS Customs officer randomly intercepted a South African registered truck carrying 1 433 master cases of undeclared, suspected illicit Remington Gold cigarettes.

SARS said the contents of the truck were declared as wastepaper to the value of R48 500. During the inspection, the Customs officer found that the wastepaper was used to cover the master cases of cigarettes. The value of these cigarettes is estimated at R21 million.

“The truck driver pretended to be opening the other side of the truck and fled the inspection area. The truck and master cases of cigarettes were detained at Skilpadshek Border Post. A criminal case against the driver, clearing agent and transport company is underway,” said the revenue collector.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter praised the Customs officers for their vigilance in preventing illicit cigarettes entering the country.

“The legal tobacco and cigarette industry in the country needs to be supported and SARS has shown once again that it is playing its part. Similarly, the trade in narcotics needs to be smashed. These drugs have a harmful effect on all users, which unfortunately includes young persons, who have the potential to contribute greatly to the prosperity of our country.”

Kieswetter said SARS is determined to give meaning to its strategic objectives of making non-compliance hard and costly for any person who transgresses law.

“While we have made it easy and simple to comply, we will not tolerate criminals and syndicates, whose mission is to impede the economic prosperity of our country and the well-being of our citizens,” he said.