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Press Release

Court ruling should smoke out illicit cigarette kingpins

Tuesday 2 January 2024 – TAX Justice SA (TJSA) welcomes a vital legal breakthrough against the illicit tobacco barons who are stealing billions of rand from South Africa and is today urging authorities to now enforce the law to prevent this industrial-scale looting.

Several cigarette manufacturers have failed in their urgent bid to interdict the SA Revenue Service (SARS) against installing CCTV cameras at their warehouses. Now these companies – including Carnilinx, which is owned by self-confessed tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti – should have to heed laws enabling SARS to monitor the true volume of cigarettes being produced.

TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “This is a vital breakthrough against the illicit tobacco barons who are robbing Mzansi of over R27 billion a year by flooding the market with tax-evading cigarettes.

“For too long, these criminals have been able to flout the laws and hide their industrial-scale looting from SARS. Now authorities must ensure regulations are properly enforced to halt the crippling theft of vital revenue that should be building a better South Africa for all.”

The legal challenge against the CCTV rules has been led by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), which represents the local makers of ‘cheapie’ cigarette brands.

“The Gold Mafia investigation has shown that South Africa’s illicit cigarette trade is a key component of money laundering and other organised crime,” Abramjee says.

“The kingpins are brazenly siphoning billions of rand in dirty money to offshore havens by utilising high-level accomplices and exploiting weaknesses in our enforcement agencies, which were hollowed out by years of State Capture.

“To rebuild our country, our investigators and prosecutors must be properly equipped to implement the rule of law. This latest ruling by the Gauteng High Court goes some way towards that. SARS must follow up with vigour, immediately install CCTV at all tobacco factories and cancel the licences and seize the products of companies that refuse to comply.

“Instead of hiding behind legal jargon, FITA must be forced to account why it’s trying to tie up our authorities in costly court actions and explain once and for all what it’s ultimately trying to hide.”