Zimbabwe: Cigarette smugglers fined $ 12,000, three minors warned
THE 34 smugglers arrested while smuggling 76 cases of export-grade Remmington Gold cigarettes to South Africa last week were each fined $ 12,000 (or three months) by the Beitbridge resident magistrate, Mr. Takudzwa Gwazemba, yesterday while the three 17-year-olds were warned.
The defendants were found guilty on their own guilty pleas. They were arrested last week by members of the National Security Task Force actively cracking down on smuggling and other cross-border crimes.
Continuing, Mr. Ronald Mugwagwa said that the security team at point 40 near Vhembe Game Park, received information that there was contraband at an illegal crossing point near the same area.
They reacted and intercepted the 37 crossing to South Africa carrying the 76 cases of cigarettes neatly packed in bags that had been improvised as backpacks.
Mr Mugwagwa said the group was subsequently arrested and the contraband was transferred to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority for assessment.
Meanwhile, security guards arrested seven other people at Nottingham Estate as they smuggled 63 cases of cigarettes to South Africa across the Limpopo River during routine patrols on Saturday evening.
“We have arrested six porters and the owner of the contraband. They are being processed to appear in court. Let the smugglers be warned, we are not giving in, we will not give them a break,” said a security officer.
Cigarette smuggling from Zimbabwe to South Africa via the Limpopo River began to increase in early April last year, when markets for contraband cigarettes grew as South Africa banned cigarette purchases during the early stages of its locking.
This increase prompted security teams in both countries to step up anti-smuggling initiatives.
It is understood that 30% of cigarettes in South Africa come from Zimbabwe, including brands such as Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles.
The huge difference in tobacco taxes between South Africa, where they are very high, and Zimbabwe, where they are much lower, creates arbitrage opportunities for contraband.
The South African tax watchdog, Tax Justice SA (TJSA), has since accused cigarette makers in Zimbabwe of not paying attention to tax laws following the increase in contraband tobacco, claiming that they don’t really care where their products end up.
Demand for Zimbabwe’s tobacco and related products by other countries has seen the establishment of well-orchestrated unions that facilitate the illegal trade and smuggling of gold leaf in various countries.
Legal cigarette exports to South Africa attract high excise duties of R 6.21 per 10 cigarettes. For example, most Zimbabwean cigarettes sold in South Africa are smuggled in and sell for around half of their legal price.