Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa’s organised crime unit, the Hawks have arrested a 32-year-old suspected cigarettes smuggling kingpin and his 29-year old accomplice and recovered a contraband of cigarettes worth R700 000.
The duo was arrested on Monday after several months of playing hide and seek with the police since August last year.
The suspects took to flight when the Hawks raided their warehouse in Mokopane area in Limpopo province in August last year.
Hawks spokesperson, Captain Matimba Maluleke said Bareket Simon and his accomplice Robin Hermako have since been charged for contravening a section of the Contravention of the Customs And Excise Act 91 of 1964.
“The accused persons appeared in the Mahwelereng Magistrates’ Court and Mokopane Magistrates’ Court respectively on charges of dealing in illicit cigarettes. They were both remanded in custody until February 19, 2021 for formal bail application,” said Captain Maluleke.
He said in August last year, the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation raided a clandestine illicit cigarettes warehouse in Mokopane believed to be owned by the suspects.
During the raid, he said, 42 boxes containing an assortment of smuggled cigarettes worth over R700 000 were seized and consequently one suspect was arrested.
“The court issued a warrant of arrest against the owner of the warehouse and he was sought until arrested over the past weekend. During his arrest, one of his shops was searched and six boxes containing illicit cigarettes with the estimated street value of over R80 000 and dagga with a street value of R2000 were found and seized. His accomplice who is a shopkeeper was also arrested,” said Capt Maluleke.
The smuggling of cigarettes between Zimbabwe and South Africa through the Beitbridge Border Post and illegal crossing points is common.
It is understood that the vice has been pushed by repressive customs laws in the neighbouring country which make it difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to the neighbouring country.
It is also estimated that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.
More than 50 people have been arrested leading to the recovery ofcigarettes worth millions of rands.
A box of cigarettes is bought at US$120 from local producers and sold for between US$250 and US$300 to the syndicates who then smuggle them into South Africa where the sell for anything above R20 000.
Those that illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per box and in most cases, this is done under the cover of darkness.