Skip to main content
Press Release

Arrest of SARS official in R10m illicit cigarette bust demands full investigation

Wednesday 9 December 2020 – AN URGENT investigation into smuggling at our porous borders is needed to stop criminals looting South Africa of millions every day, Tax Justice SA warns today.

The call came as an official from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) was remanded in custody following the seizure of a truck carrying R10 million worth of illicit cigarettes in Limpopo last week.

TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “Illicit cigarettes have been flooding over our borders since criminals took complete control of the tobacco market during the lockdown sales ban.

“They have established the world’s biggest black market in cigarettes and are making billions of rand every month in tax-free profits, while our ailing economy is being starved of vital funds.

“The alleged involvement of a SARS officer is a sinister development and a full and thorough investigation must now be conducted to secure our borders.”

The SARS official and two accomplices face charges of corruption and defeating the course of justice over the seized truck and contraband, which was allegedly cleared to pass over the Beitbridge border crossing from Zimbabwe.

It is the latest in a series of busts that have featured Remington Gold cigarettes, which are made in Zimbabwe by Gold Leaf, the tobacco giant which also manufactures several local brands including RG, Sahawi, Chicago, Voyager and Sharp at its Gauteng factory.

“Gold Leaf brands were by far the biggest sellers during the lockdown sales ban,” says Abramjee. “Remington Gold was smuggled so successfully that five million of them were being sold every day.

“They are now openly available  throughout the country, along with other brands on which due taxes are obviously not being paid.

“Authorities must account for why these criminals have been handed control of a hugely lucrative cigarette trade and why they are being permitted to systematically loot South Africans of vital funds needed to save lives, feed the hungry and build a better future.”