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Press Release

FITA must withdraw its challenge to SARS’ anti-corruption crackdown

Sunday April 7 2024 – TOBACCO companies must withdraw their legal action against the South African Revenue Service (SARS) unless they wish to defy the taxman’s crackdown on organised crime syndicates looting our country, Tax Justice SA (TJSA) declares today.

TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “SARS commissioner Ed Kieswetter stressed last week how it is imperative that we halt the criminal tax evaders – and their enablers – who are stealing billions of rand in vital revenue from the fiscus.

“The commissioner highlighted the illicit cigarette trade as an urgent target and SARS should be commended for its efforts to recover R8.2 billion in untaxed funds linked to a money-laundering racket allegedly run by Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation (GLTC).

“But SARS’ attempts to install CCTV in tobacco factories to stop further looting is being blocked by companies represented by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA).

“What is FITA trying to hide? Cameras are the link in the chain that might finally ensnare the tobacco tax cheats. All tobacco companies must be told: install cameras or lose your licence to make cigarettes.”

A recent report by global analysts Oxford Economics found that the illicit cigarette trade is robbing the South African economy of R27 billion tax revenue annually. The excise research unit at University of Cape Town has just stated that criminals’ share of South Africa’s cigarette market has sky-rocketed by 1100% in little over a decade.

“Kingpins in organised crime have been allowed to capture South Africa’s cigarette market and are stealing the tax money that should be spent on schools, hospitals and housing,” Abramjee says.

“FITA complains that the tobacco industry is getting undue attention compared to tax evasion in other sectors, but crime must never be rewarded, wherever it is taking place.

“FITA’s attitude reflects a complacency that has witnessed our country degenerate into a gangster’s paradise. It is time for FITA to declare whose side it’s on. FITA must withdraw its court case against SARS’ anti-corruption measures before it’s due to be heard on April 15, or South Africans will be forced to draw their own conclusions.”

Meanwhile, TJSA is calling on prosecuting authorities to explain why no arrests have yet been made, more than a year after the Gold Mafia exposé was broadcast by Al Jazeera.

The four-part documentary series identified several individuals and companies in South Africa linked to the tobacco and gold trade who were allegedly involved in large-scale money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes.