Police have arrested a truck driver for possession of illicit cigarettes worth more than R4.8m at the Kopfontein border with Botswana near Zeerust.
Initially, the truck driver declared that he was transporting liquid molasses for cows but upon further investigation, the customs officials discovered that the middle compartment of his truck contained illicit cigarettes.
TRUCK DRIVER NABBED WITH R4.8M WORTH CIGARETTES
North West police spokesperson Captain Sam Tselanyane said Petrus Toppies, 53, was arrested on Tuesday, 8 June.
According to the police, the truck which had a trailer was entering SA from Zambia via Botswana and the driver who was alone in the truck declared that he was transporting liquid molasses for cows.
“Upon further investigation by the customs officials, the driver reportedly disclosed that the middle compartment of the trailer contained illicit cigarettes. The resultant search revealed that the trailer’s flank compartments contained liquid molasses while the middle one was filled with 355 cases of Pacific Blue cigarettes to the estimated value of R4,805,200. He was then arrested.”
“The driver was immediately arrested and liquid molasses had to be drained out as it is not suitable for use in SA. The truck and cigarettes were ultimately confiscated. The case is being investigated by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.”
Toppies appeared in Zeerust magistrate’s court on Friday, 11 June and was remanded in custody. He will appear in court on June 18 for a formal bail application.
North West Acting provincial police commissioner Maj-Gen Dintletse Molefe said: “The illicit cigarettes trade affects the economy of the country and the police will deal harshly with those who perpetrate the crime.”
SARS SCORES VICTORY AGAINST ILLICIT CIGARETTES TRADE
This week, customs officers of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) this week scored several victories in the fight against the trade in illegal cigarettes with a search and seizure operation in three cities and a bust at the Kopfontein border post.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the seizure and destruction of illegal cigarettes was an important signal of government’s commitment to root the illegal trade in goods such as cigarettes, clothing and textiles, second-hand motor vehicles and scrap metal, amongst others.
“Whilst we are pleased with these successes, we still have a significant amount of work ahead in order to address this scourge of criminal behavior, which distorts our domestic economy, erodes the tax base and destroys employment opportunities.
“We are also concerned about the lack of consistent standards and consequent health and other risks presented to consumers as a result of illicit goods and trade,” the Commissioner added.