By Thupeyo Muleya
South African police have recovered three luxury vehicles and an assortment of cigarettes worth thousands of dollars that were being smuggled along the Limpopo River on Wednesday afternoon.
The interceptions are reportedly part of Zimbabwe and South Africa’s security authorities’ clampdown on cross-border crime along the two countries’ boundary line.
The police seized a BMW X3, one VW Polo, a Toyota Etios, 8 831 bricks of Pacific Blue cigarettes straight boxes and 714 cartons of illegal cigarettes to the estimated value of R158 215 in separate coordinated raids on the same day. It is alleged that the BMW X3, whose value is yet to be ascertained, was heading for Zimbabwe while the cigarettes contraband was destined for Johannesburg, Gauteng province.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, said they have arrested a 38-year-old suspect whom they found with the cigarettes and that some of his accomplices were still at large.
“The South African Police Service have once more intercepted motor vehicles, including a luxury SUV from being smuggled out of the country at the northern border between South Africa and Zimbabwe and in the process, confiscated packs of illegal cigarettes at different locations,” said Lt Col Ngoepe.
“The Crime Intelligence driven operation comprising members of the Musina SAPS and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) followed up information that led them to the discovery of a BMW X3 in the middle of the Limpopo River.
“The suspects abandoned the vehicle and fled to the other side of the river. The vehicle was retrieved and towed back to South Africa”.
He said the operation was expanded to other areas of Musina after information was related that there were cigarette smugglers using three vehicles.He said one of the vehicles sped off from the Baobab tollgate and was later found abandoned along the Waterpoort road after an intense car chase.
Lt Col Ngoepe said the other vehicle was cornered at Sebayeng next to Turfloop in the Mankweng Cluster outside Polokwane.
“The suspect, aged 38 was subsequently arrested and illegal cigarettes confiscated. We are still tracing the other suspects involved in these incidents,” he said.
According to Lt Col Ngoepe, investigations into the ownership of the recovered vehicles were underway.
He said arrested suspect will appear before the Mankweng Magistrate Court soon.
Lt Col Ngoepe said anyone with information should contact Brigadier James Espach at 082 576 0743 or the nearest Police Station or the Crime Stop toll free number on 0860010111 or the sms crime line 32211.
The smuggling of cigarettes, livestock and stolen vehicles has become rampant along the Limpopo River resulting in security authorities from both countries conducting joint patrols in the area.
In the last 12 months more than 30 people have been arrested for smuggling stolen vehicles along the two countries’ border. The Chronicle