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Press Release

Gold Leaf Tobacco boss in $1bn gold-smuggling scam with Zimbabwe rulers, reports Al Jazeera

Thursday 23 March 2023 – SOUTH Africa’s No.1 illicit cigarette kingpin is today sensationally exposed as the mastermind of a multi-billion-dollar gold smuggling network in collusion with the corrupt rulers of Zimbabwe.

An explosive Al Jazeera documentary reveals Simon Rudland, boss of Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation (GLTC), is at the centre of a sanctions-busting syndicate flying vast volumes of gold out of Harare to his business empire in Dubai.

Episode 1 of the bombshell series, which will be broadcast on DStv tonight, shows Rudland’s ‘Gold Mafia’ conspires with senior members of the Zimbabwean government, reserve bank officials and airport and customs staff to rob the poverty-stricken country of an estimated $US1 billion a year.

He allegedly bankrolls this racket using a personal fortune amassed via illicit cigarette businesses in his native Zimbabwe and South Africa, where GLTC has a large manufacturing operation in Sandton.

“Simon Rudland runs his own mafia through his company Gold Leaf Tobacco. He’s known as ‘The Boss’,” says the documentary.

In a secretly filmed interview, a convicted gold smuggler says of Rudland: “He bankrolls this whole country. You have no idea how big he is.”

Rudland and GLTC are being chased by the South African Service (SARS) over billions in unpaid taxes. Yet GLTC brands continue to dominate South Africa’s rampant cigarette trade, which is robbing the state of over R20 billion annually.

“Al Jazeera’s sensational evidence is a damning indictment of South African authorities who continue to allow Rudland’s empire to operate without censure,” says Yusuf Abramjee, founder of Tax Justice SA (TJSA).

“Seven months ago, the High Court passed an order for SARS to seize the assets of Rudland and GLTC for allegedly failing to pay R3 billion in due taxes. But today it’s still business as usual at GLTC and Rudland is exposed as the head of a massive smuggling syndicate impoverishing Africans with the help of his political cronies.

“Forthcoming episodes of the Al Jazeera series apparently expose even more sinister dealings and the revelations are sure to attract the attentions of the FBI.

“If our Government wants to retain any semblance of financial integrity, it must immediately put a stop to GLTC’s activities on South African soil.”