A 28-YEAR-OLD Zimbabwean was nabbed in Musina, South Africa, following a shootout with police on Sunday after attempting to smuggle local cigarettes worth ZAR348 000 to the neighbouring country.
The South African Police Services (Sap) are hunting for six other gang members.
“The Vhembe Trio Task Team was conducting an operation on Sunday, August 27, 2023, and arrested a 28-year-old male suspect driving a white Nissan NP200 with registration numbers FG 29 YT GP along N1 Highway next to the Baobab Toll Plaza from Musina to Makhado. Upon searching the vehicle they recovered illicit cigarettes … loaded in the van," Saps Limpopo province spokesman, Colonel Malesela Ledwaba, said in a statement.
"This followed the crossfire shooting between the police and the suspects along the N1 Highway on Sunday August 27, 2023 at about 21:20 in the evening. The estimated street value of the recovered cigarettes is R348 000.
“This 28-year-old suspect is expected to appear at Musina Magistrates Court soon facing charges of possession of illicit cigarettes and violation of Immigration Act."
In a separate incident, Saps recovered another cigarette contraband worth R500 000 after a high-speed chase in rural Limpopo province.
“A suspicious motor vehicle, a white SUV Ford Territory with registration numbers DB07LP GP driving along the N1 Highway (in) the southern direction after the Baobab Toll Plaza was followed by the Saps Vhembe Trio Crime Task Team. Suddenly the white Ford turned into the Hamatsa gravel road towards Mphephu. Behind the police vehicle came another suspicious motor vehicle, a maroon SUV Ford Territory with registration numbers BY29PW GP and all of a sudden shots were fired from the white Ford (in) the direction of police,” said Ledwaba.
“Police confiscated illicit cigarettes worth R500 000 and (the) two motor vehicles — SUVs worth R11 0000.”
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In 2020, one of South Africa’s largest tobacco producers, British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) said that it had been forced to cut about a third of its workforce as a result of the “ballooning illicit tobacco trade”.
BATSA estimated that “illicit cigarette trade accounted for up to 70% of South Africa's total cigarette market”.
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