By Thupeyo Muleya
A 52-year-old Zimbabwean man believed to be part of a well-orchestrated smuggling syndicate has been remanded in a South African prison following his arrest in possession of R30 million worth of smuggled cigarettes.
Alec Muthanguro, who is alleged to be linked to a racket operating within Beitbridge and South Africa, was busted with a truckload filled with 3 000 Remmington Gold cigarettes in Polokwane on Tuesday last week.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said Muthanguro appeared in the Polokwane Magistrates’ court on Friday and was remanded in custody to Thursday for formal bail application.
Brig Mojapelo said Muthanguro’s arrest was part of their intensified fight against illegal trading and smuggling of illicit cigarettes across the province.
“The police received information about a truck transporting a huge consignment of illicit cigarettes which had allegedly crossed into the country through the Beitbridge Border Post and heading towards Polokwane,” he said.
“A snap operation by a team comprising the Limpopo Provincial Tracking Team and Crime Intelligence Unit was activated and the truck fitting the description given was spotted along the Dendron/Polokwane road. It was then intercepted and pulled over at the intersection next to the Traffic Department.”
He said Muthanguro was then escorted to the nearby Polokwane International Airport where the truck was searched.
He said the police found more than 3 000 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with an estimated street value of R30 million loaded in the container.
Brig Mojapelo said Muthanguro was immediately arrested for smuggling and possession of illicit cigarettes.
South Africa has become one of the major destinations and conduits for cigarettes smuggled through the Beitbridge Border Post or the Limpopo River.
It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in the neighbouring country are from Zimbabwe, including Pacific, Remington Gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles.
South African tax watchdog, Tax Justice SA (TJSA), has accused cigarette manufacturers in the neighboring country of paying lip service to tax laws following the surge in tobacco smuggling.
The organisation’s founder Mr Yusuf Abramjee said investigations by market researchers IPSOS revealed that 85 percent of GLTC-owned brands bought in the survey were sold below the minimum collectible tax (MCT) rate of R21,60 per pack.
Mr Abramjee said they had also established that 99 percent of Remington Gold purchased in the survey was below the MCT and that some were sold for as little as R10.
It is difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa due to the high excise duty in that country on tobacco or cigarettes.
Statistics from the South African Revenue Services show that a total of 82 689 043kg of tobacco was imported from Zimbabwe between January 2010 to March 2015.
These include imports of Cigars, Cheroots, Cigarillos and Cigarettes of Tobacco or of Tobacco Substitutes which are charged at a rate of R6.21 per 10 cigarettes. The Chronicle