South Africa

LIMPOPO CRIME

Hawks arrest five suspects in R30m illicit-cigarette bust on farm near Beitbridge border

Hawks arrest five suspects in R30m illicit-cigarette bust on farm near Beitbridge border
Hawks and SANDF members inspect a bakkie full of illicit cigarettes on a farm near Beitbridge border in Limpopo. (Photo: Supplied)

The Hawks arrested five suspects after discovering illicit cigarettes with an estimated value of more than R30-million on a farm between Musina and the Beitbridge border in Limpopo at the weekend.

Limpopo Hawks spokesperson Captain Matimba Maluleke said police had received a tip-off about illicit cigarettes waiting to be transported across the border. 

“A multidisciplinary sting operation between the Hawks, Limpopo SA Police Service, SA National Defence Force and the SA Revenue Service was conducted,” he said.

When the team arrived at the farm, they found a truck and a tractor with a trailer loaded with suspected illicit cigarettes, covered with pallets of bricks. 

“A preliminary investigation led to the discovery of a bakkie and another truck in the vicinity … also fully loaded with suspected illicit cigarettes,” he said. 

It’s not the first time law enforcement officers have intercepted illicit cigarettes in Limpopo, especially on the N1. 

Last month, several police officers attached to the Tshamutumbu Police Station outside Musina were arrested. They are suspected of involvement in the trafficking of illicit cigarettes. They have appeared in court and are currently out on bail.

Maluleke said the five suspects in the Beitbridge case appeared in the Musina Magistrates’ Court on Monday and remain in custody. Their bail hearing will take place on Friday.

A joint operation between the Hawks, SAPS, SARS and the SANDF discovered five men loading illicit cigarettes on to vehicles on a farm between Musina and the Beitbridge border post between SA and Zimbabwe. (Photo: Supplied)

Hawks and SANDF members inspect a bakkie full of illicit cigarettes on a farm near Beitbridge border in Limpopo. (Photo: Supplied)

A joint operation between the Hawks, SAPS, SARS and the SANDF arrested five men loading illicit cigarettes on to vehicles on a farm between Musina and the Beitbridge border post between SA and Zimbabwe. (Photo: Supplied)


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The accused are: Manuel Mphephu (44); Gibson Machaha (37); Moses Matembdze (38); Asoith Rambuwani (26); and Swethani Mphephu (26).

Meanwhile, SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter has praised law enforcement for the bust.

“According to their records, a total 1,185 master cases of illicit cigarettes with brands of Remington Gold, Chelsea and Royal Express, worth millions, were impounded. 

“Four trucks, one bakkie and one tractor with a trailer … to carry the illicit cigarettes worth millions in estimated value were also confiscated by the law enforcement officers,” Kieswetter said in a statement.

He said investigations showed that the smuggling of illicit cigarettes is increasing in the country. He said about 500 people who cross the border daily are smuggling at least two master cases of illicit cigarettes on their backs. 

“These cigarettes are then loaded into trucks, some owned by South Africans, and small vehicles which use alternative routes alongside the border, and in collusion with some local farmers, to reach their intended destinations for distribution on the local market.”

Illicit cigarette smuggling is also rife in rural villages near the Beitbridge border. Residents of villages such as Malale, Madimbo, Gumbu, Bennde Mutale and Masisi say they witness the transportation of cigarettes daily across the Limpopo River. 

A member of the community of Gumbu village, Mahwasane Mudzweda, said syndicates sometimes engaged in shootouts in the bush, fighting over the illicit cigarettes. 

Members of the SANDF have been deployed along the Beitbridge border. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick:

Illicit and counterfeit trade fuels organised crime and is a growing threat to SA’s economic recovery

British American Tobacco fears profits will go up in smoke as illegal trade devours the market

No smoke without fire – South Africa’s illicit cigarette trade

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tim Price says:

    NDZ and Dudezane will be upset by this manifestation of law and order interfering with their business interests…

  • Schalk Burger says:

    The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa increased exponentially due to the disastrous management of the Covid-19 rules by NDZ. Sadly, it is now entrenched.

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