SARS, police at unregistered tobacco manufacturing plant in Johannesburg

An intelligence-driven swoop has halted the operation of an unregistered tobacco manufacturing plant producing molasses/shisha tobacco products in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.

The plant was uncovered during a search and seizure operation conducted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) through its National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) and its Illicit Trade Unit. The SARS agencies were supported by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

In a statement, the revenue collector said the plant was linked to a specific licenced cigarette manufacturer 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 to SARS.

During the operation, SARS said a shop owner from one of the identified shops attempted to bribe one of the SARS officials “to make the case go away” with approximately R30 000. A criminal case was opened with SAPS for attempted bribery and the individual was arrested.

“In another operation, the SARS NRRT [National Rapid Response Team] inspected a 40ft container load at one of the licensed depots in City Deep. The consignment was declared as playing cards imported from China to South Africa via the Durban harbour to City Deep.

“The inspection uncovered a full container load of various clothing items with a declared customs value of R550 000.00, but which were falsely declared as playing cards. The clothing has been detained, pending further steps while a criminal case was opened with SAPS for smuggling and fraud,” said the revenue collector.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the organisation was committed to making it hard and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and traders. He said such non-compliance, trade in illicit goods and criminal activities destroy the economy and in turn, lead to job losses, inequality and poverty.

“Most importantly, these criminal activities reduce the revenue that SARS collects so as to enable 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. – SAnews

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