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Press Release

Follow the money, TJSA urges, as cops swoop on illicit cigarette traders

Thursday 20 October, 2022 – TAX Justice SA (TJSA) welcomes today’s long-needed police action against illicit trade in Cape Town and urges authorities to extend the crackdown nationwide.

“It’s a breakthrough to see officers finally enforcing the law by seizing thousands of cigarettes being sold at prices that show taxes aren’t being paid,” TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee said.

“But these busts represent just a drop in the ocean when one considers the magnitude of South Africa’s illicit cigarette trade that is robbing the nation of R19 billion a year.

“Authorities should extend the crackdown to retailers throughout the country and investigators must follow the money to nail the kingpins pulling the strings in this industrial-scale looting.”

Onlookers quickly gathered on the scene when scores of SAPS officers swooped on stores in Bellville, Cape Town, on Thursday morning.

Bystanders snapped photos of cops removing trailer loads of mastercases (500 packs) of cigarettes, including well-known brands such as Remington Gold and Chicago (both made by Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation) and JFK, VIP, Shasha and Mega (all made by Adriano Mazzotti’s Carnilinx).

Hand-written price lists were seized showing stores were selling the cigarettes for as little as R7 per pack. The minimum collectible tax (MCT) is currently R22.79 per pack.

“This police operation simply bears out the evidence of TJSA’s own investigations when we revealed how easy it is to buy tax-evading cigarettes in what is now the biggest black market in the world,” said Abramjee.

“This criminality is going on across the country and barely a finger has been lifted against it. It deprives the state of vital revenue, kills law-abiding businesses and robs hard-working citizens of honest jobs.

“All the while, the illicit cigarette barons have been getting rich beyond their wildest dreams and siphoning their ill-gotten loot into offshore havens.

“Authorities must not rest until these criminal masterminds are caught and locked up and their riches are seized and returned to the South African people, to whom they belong.”