South African police have arrested two of their members who recently connived with a 43-year-old Zimbabwean to smuggle South African cigarettes worth more than R12 million. The duo was picked up last week by the North West Provincial Anti-Corruption Investigating Unit (ACIU) and are set to stand trial on 28 August at the Lehurutshe Magistrates’ Court.
The case was pushed further after Zimbabwe’s Joseph Kusekwa abandoned his bail application. National Prosecution Authority spokesperson for North West, Mr. Henry Mamothame, said Kusekwa was also an illegal immigrant. He said the man allegedly smuggled the contraband on 21 July through the Botswana and South African border at the Skilpadhek Port of Entry with the help of the two police officers.
“Kusekwa abandoned the bail application. The matter was then remanded to 24 August to join this case with that of the two police officers that were arrested for corruption,” said Mr Mamothame.
He said Kusekwa, who is a truck driver, was traveling from Botswana when he entered South Africa at Skilpadhek Port of Entry at approximately 6:40 am during load-shedding after conniving with the two police officers.
“This is the time when trucks entering or leaving the country are not allowed to do so at the ports of entry, owing to computers being off-line. A police officer on patrol along the border saw the truck leaving the border, driving towards Zeerust,” said Mr Mamothame.
“He informed his commander and the truck was chased and stopped before it reached Zeerust. The driver was ordered to drive back to Skilpadhek port of entry where an inspection of the truck and its load was done by the police and customs officials.”
He said a search was carried out and it was discovered that the truck was carrying crates of cigarettes, which the driver failed to declare at customs, valued at R12 868 509.
The official said Kusekwa was immediately arrested and charged with possession of smuggled cigarettes. Mr. Mamothame said the two police officers who had allowed the truck to leave the border have been arrested following intensive investigations.
Recently, a 45-year-old Zimbabwean man was jailed for an effective five years in South Africa for smuggling a contraband of cigarettes worth over R300 000.
Oliver Mupanga was sent to prison when he appeared at the Senwabarwana Regional Court where he was convicted. He was sentenced to direct imprisonment for possession of illicit cigarettes and entering South Africa without a valid passport.
The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River is rife. There is a huge gap between the excise duties charged in Zimbabwe and South Africa and its customs union neighbors.
It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including popular brands. Ideally, a crate of cigarettes is bought at US$120 from Zimbabwean producers, a price that includes Zimbabwean taxes, and sold for between US$250 and US$300 to criminal syndicates who then smuggle them into South Africa where they sell for anything above R15 000.
Those that illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per crate and in most cases this is done under the cover of darkness.
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