The operation of an unregistered tobacco manufacturing plant came to a sudden halt when SARS and SAPS swooped in. The manufacturing plant was producing molasses/shisha tobacco products in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.
Further investigation to take place in terms of tax and customs legislation
The intelligence-driven operation was conducted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) through its National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) and its Illicit Trade Unit. The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) also assisted with this operation.
According to SARS, the plant was linked to a specific licenced cigarette manufacturer. This was made clear through the brand of the tobacco products found on the premises.
“The manufacturing plant, with all machines and molasses, were detained for further investigations in terms of tax and customs legislation. The multi-agency enforcement team also conducted search and seizure operations on three shops in Fordsburg, focusing on the sale of suspected illicit tobacco products. The team found 1 337 cartons of illicit molasses, as well as illicit cigarettes with an estimated value of R400 000,” SARS said.
SARS said, “the goods were detained and removed pending production of import/local purchase documentation, quantity verification and further investigation on whether the correct taxes were paid.”
SARS official gets offered a R30 000 bribe
During the operation, a shop owner from one of the identified shops attempted to bribe one of the SARS officials. He wanted “to make the case go away” by offering R30 000. Consequently, a criminal case was opened with SAPS for attempted bribery and the shop owner was arrested.
SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, said that any non-compliance, trade in illicit goods and criminal activities destroy the economy. This then leads to job losses, inequality and poverty.
“Most importantly, these criminal activities reduce the revenue that SARS collects so as to enable the government to render basic services to the poor and vulnerable, such as old age grants, schools, clinics and a vaccine roll-out programme to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will remain vigilant and maintain a zero-tolerance approach towards illicit trade in any product because that is what our legal mandate requires us to do,” Kieswetter said.
Media Statement: SARS, police swoop on unregistered tobacco manufacturing plant