Illegal cigs light up crime

From: Times Live


About 30% of all cigarettes consumed in this country are the products of illicit dealing.

According to the Tobacco Industry of Southern Africa, illicit cigarettes are either manufactured locally and not declared to avoid taxation, or are smuggled in.

Since 2010, said the organisation’s CEO, Francois van der Merwe, the government had lost more than R15-billion in taxes to illegal smokes.

SARS spokesman Adrian Lackay said cigarette smuggling had become very lucrative.

We are seeing the migration of big role players in the narcotics trade to tobacco smuggling,” said Lackay.

He said the profit margins are even higher than in drugs trafficking and the risks are lower.

Cigarettes are confiscated and those convicted must pay stiff penalties, but imprisonment is likely for dealing in narcotics.

SARS reported that, during the 2012-2013 financial year, 138million contraband cigarettes, valued at R63.4-million, were seized.

Van der Merwe said there had been an increase in the number of syndicates in the trade.

“If we let this industry grow we could very well end up with a country overrun by organised crime.

“We have to do all that we can, as a partnership between the private and public sectors, to rid the country and continent of the scourge,” said Van der Merwe.

“Illicitly traded tobacco products not only fuel existing organised crime syndicates, but also become an entry point for new criminals because of the low-risk, high-profit nature of the crime.”

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