Archives For Illicit Goods

Rize one 3D print

Katrina Megget writing for securingindustry.com has penned the following article which describes the significant strides which the 3D printing has made in recent times. Fears of a proliferation in ‘counterfeit production’ may just be arrested given developments which envisage the ‘embedding of digital rights’ into the 3D printing process.

3D printing has received an upgrade – it can now 3D print secure digital information such as QR codes, which could be used in anti-counterfeiting.

Introduced by Boston-based additive manufacturing firm Rize Inc, the development is the first example of Digitally Augmented Parts; essentially the printing of physical parts with digital information.

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), which produces a 3D object by depositing successive layers of a material on top of each other as directed by a computer-generated model, has become one of the fastest growing industries, extending into the toy, automotive, aerospace and medical device sectors, among others.

However, there are concerns that 3D printing could be a threat to brands and businesses through counterfeiting.

Rize’s technology directly addresses this concern by enabling a link between the physical 3D printed product and digital information, thereby integrating Industry 4.0 technologies such as blockchain, augmented reality and virtual reality.

According to the company, the “immutable connection…bridges the gap between the virtual and real world”.

Julie Reece, VP of manufacturing at Rize, explained the technique as embedding ‘Digital Rights Management’ into the functional 3D printed parts “for compliance, authenticity and traceability”.

“A significant challenge in the additive manufacturing industry are parts that are non-compliant due to design changes, piracy, counterfeit and obsolescence, that adversely impact the user and customer experience and result in rework, recalls and loss of brand value,” Reece told 3DPrint.com.

The technology expands on the company’s hybrid 3D printer that it introduced about two years ago. This combines two types of printing to form a multi-material technology that is called Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD), which has been used to make industrial-strength parts such as system components and medical testing equipment.

The enhancement now means 3D printed products can be embedded with secure digital information, such as in the form of a QR code. The QR code can then be scanned and read by a smartphone app, which relays the digital information, such as product, manufacturing and supply chain details, to the user.

Rize said the development is important for 3D parts and components used in more complex, multi-part products because it secures the supply chain and ensures authenticity.

“Additive is a part of a bigger strategy for many companies, which is a digital strategy or an Industry 4.0 strategy but really that digital strategy is not fully realised because when you print the part, the digital link breaks,” Andy Kalambi, president and chief executive of Rize, told TCT Magazine. “The moment the part gets printed on the machine it’s a physical part and there is no digital element left in it. The break of the digital link is a big issue for this industry overall to realise the promise of what is called Industry 4.0.”

On Rize’s website, Kalambi said: “This is the first step towards embedding intelligent capabilities within the part and connecting them through a digital thread into the digital twin of the part. Rize is leading the integration of additive manufacturing into the digital ecosystem, which will redefine the user and customer and experience, and ultimately scale the technology to an entirely new segment of commercial and industrial users.”

The development is a significant breakthrough for industry, which has previously voiced concerns that 3D printing will herald the production of counterfeit copies, emphasising the need for anti-counterfeiting measures.

Last May, scientists from the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at New York University noted there was a need to have anti-counterfeiting features within the computer-aided design model. They suggested a unique combination of processing and printing parameters built into the product’s digital design, which if stolen, would produce a defective product.

Other anti-counterfeiting features suggested for 3D printing include novel material compositions that cannot be easily replicated, or quantum dots, which are nanoparticles embedded in the 3D-printed object that can emit different wavelengths of light and provide a unique manufacturing signature.

Source: securingindustry.com, authored by K. Megget, 10 April 2018, [Picture: TCT Magazine]

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E-Commerce Strategic PlanCustoms and Border Protection has developed an e-commerce strategy in a bid to tackle the increase in online shopping and growth of illicit and counterfeit goods shipped as small packages.

The strategy, which notes that CBP must “adapt” to the new e-commerce landscape, seeks to address emerging threats posed by the global change in commerce habits and ensure CBP has the means to enforce violations.

Under the new e-commerce strategy, CBP will, among a number of measures, look to enhance data collection and intelligence, develop and utilise state-of-the-art techniques and technologies, review its existing legal and regulatory authorities, seek to strengthen partnerships with the private sector, facilitate international trade standards for e-commerce, and educate the American public of the risks, both as consumers and as importers, associated with non-compliant products.

The crackdown and new emphasis for the CBP reflects the shift from traditional methods of importing via large, containerised shipments to small, low-value packages as direct-to-consumer business becomes more common. This has presented new inspection and data challenges for CBP, especially as the volume of these small packages has increased.

In addition, transnational criminal organisations are increasingly shipping illicit goods to the US via small packages on the belief there is a lower risk of interdiction and less severe enforcement consequences if caught. CBP said this illicit activity poses a risk to the health and safety of Americans and compromises US economic security.

The new e-commerce strategy also follows a report last month by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed the enforcement efforts by CBP and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in light of the increase in online shopping and sale of counterfeit goods. The report found that CBP had conducted a limited evaluation of its efforts, suggesting its activities were not the most efficient or effective, and recommended it evaluate its activities to enhance intellectual property enforcement.

The new strategy has a strong focus on data, which is one of the current limitations around enforcement of small packages. For instance, according to the strategy document, CBP will strengthen partnerships with stakeholders and encourage information sharing, proposing benefits for those parties who share advance electronic data and other information and will penalise those who are not compliant in this area.

The agency will also increase its operational efficiency and effectiveness by using data analytics, data mining, and an array of powerful analytical tools. In addition, CBP will expand its existing advance electronic data pilot in the international mail environment to include additional foreign postal operators.

Potential technology options include mobile applications and an e-commerce resource library, the strategy notes. CBP will also develop a portal that contains a database on importers that CBP has vetted and deemed “trusted”.

Source: USCBP and Securing Industry, online article 2018.03.28

counterfeit handbags

[Picture: Ian Law/Shutterstock]

The following article, written by Katrina Megget, was published online by Securing Industry, detailing endeavours of the ‘online marketplace’ in counteracting the online sale of counterfeit products.

E-commerce sites, such as Amazon and Alibaba and including eBay and Groupon, have faced recent criticism for the level of fake products being sold on their platforms and for what, many have described, as poor efforts to stamp out these counterfeit goods.

Online marketplace eBay has officially launched an anti-counterfeiting and authentication programme for luxury handbags sold on its platform.

The service, known as eBay Authenticate which had previously been announced in January (2017), will verify, list and sell high-end handbags from 12 brands on behalf of sellers, with the aim of boosting shopper confidence in the products.

“We’re making it even easier for our buyers to shop quickly and confidently for luxury handbags,” said Laura Chambers, vice president of consumer selling at eBay. “With tens-of-thousands of high-end handbags currently available, eBay is primed to boost customer confidence in selling and shopping for an amazing selection of designer merchandise. We also believe our sellers will love this service, as it provides them with a white-glove service when selling luxury handbags.”

The service, which is only available in the US at present, is opt-in and works by using expert middle-men to ensure goods sold and bought online aren’t fake.

Sellers who have registered with eBay Authenticate, send their handbags to third-party industry experts partnering with the marketplace who verify the bag’s authenticity and then photograph, list, sell and ship the handbag to a buyer on behalf of the seller.

Verified handbags will be marked with an “Authenticity Verified” label and backed by a 200 per cent money back guarantee. Non-verified products will be returned to the seller at no charge.

Media reports suggest prices will be set by the expert rather than the seller, and will be based on eBay sales over the past 90 days.

The seller will receive 80 per cent of the final selling price, which eBay said was nearly twice as much as comparable online services.

The service is available for luxury handbags and wallets valued at more than $500 and currently includes 12 high-end brands, Balenciaga, Burberry, Celine, Chanel, Christian Dior, Fendi, Goyard, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino.

An introductory, limited offer will see the service accept luxury handbags valued at $250 and above until the end of January where sellers will receive 90 per cent of the final sale price.

eBay, which has 171 million active buyers worldwide, is looking to expand the programme to other brands and product categories in 2018.

According to the online marketplace, a woman’s handbag is purchased every 13 seconds on eBay in the US. But there is growing competition from other online retailers that focus on pre-owned fashion and accessories, such as The RealReal and Tradesy, which offer authentication services to keep fakes off their sites.

eBay had originally announced plans for the authentication service back in January. At the time of the announcement, Chambers said: “We know that many shoppers may be hesitant to purchase high-end products online. This service is designed to help quell some of those concerns and – in turn – enhance the opportunity for our sellers to get top dollar for their items.”

According to eBay, less than a fraction of a percentage point of all items listed on eBay are identified as potentially fake. But that hasn’t stopped infuriated brand owners taking action against eBay – the online marketplace has previously been sued by luxury brands LVMH and Tiffany & Co.

Feeling their reputations at risk, both Amazon and Alibaba have introduced a number of measures and have even sought legal action against counterfeiters to prove they are taking the issue seriously.

eBay’s authentication move shows it is following suit. The firm already has a number of detection and enforcement tools to fight fakes, including the Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) programme, which allows more than 40,000 rights owners to quickly report possible counterfeit goods.

Source: securingindustry.com, Katrina Megget, 18 October 2017.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior confirms that it has foiled a plot to smuggle a large shipment of cannabis weighing 6 tons into the country through the Mediterranean Sea on board a ship.

The Ministry said in an official statement that the efforts of its security services are continuing to abort the schemes of dangerous elements seeking to import and smuggle narcotics into Egypt.

It pointed out that early investigations of the General Directorate for Drug Control confirmed the intention of a gang to smuggle a large amount of cannabis stored in Syria to Egypt.

The crew of the ship managed to set sail from the Syrian port of Lattakia for landing off the coast of Egypt, but Egypt’s maritime security prevented them from doing so.

The ministry added that in light of the information available about the movement of the smugglers, they moved to the south of Crete to avoid arrest by the Egyptian authorities.

The ministry said that the concerned bodies coordinated with Greek authorities and provided them with information on the movements of the ship to be seized.

The coordination resulted in the Greek authorities seizing the ship and the cargo and arresting its crew of six persons with Syrian nationality.

The search of the ship resulted in the seizure of a total of 6 tons of cannabis hidden inside secret stores. Source: Egypt Independent, 9 December, 2017

Abalone Shells

Oxpeckers’ environmental investigative journalist, Crystal Chow,  digs up the dirt on the illicit abalone trade.

Abalone tops the list of the most exquisite seafood in Chinese cuisine, and fresh South African abalone are always the first choice for feasts in Cantonese restaurants, where one fresh abalone alone can cost up to HK$2,000 (about R3,000). In recent years, the overfishing and smuggling of wild abalone has pushed this endemic species of the South African coast towards extinction.

“The South African wild abalone are heavier, and they are better than the farmed Japanese and Australian ones in terms of fresh flavour and texture,” said Chit-yu Lau, general manager of Ah Yat Abalones restaurant in Hong Kong. “Our fresh South African abalone are all imported through legitimate channels. The smuggled ones are usually dried, and are rare in Hong Kong.”

Nonetheless, the illicit abalone trade has been gathering significant attention from conservationists combating wildlife trafficking, who believe the profitable contraband market of abalone is linked to the black market of ivory and rhino horns – both of which are driven by high demand from the Chinese market. To read the full story Click here!

Source: oxpeckers.org, author – Chow. C, June 9, 2017.

Cigarette Smuggling in Logs

September 23, 2017 — 1 Comment

Police are on high alert looking for a syndicate that uses donkeys to smuggle luxury cars across the Limpopo River into the Zimbabwe.

Thieves tied ropes to the cars which were hitched on to the donkeys to pull the cars across the river.

Some cars are driven through the drier parts of the river. On Tuesday, a Mercedes Benz C220 was intercepted before it disappeared into Zimbabwe.

“Our members were just in time to pounce on them after the donkeys were apparently no longer able to pull it through the sand,” Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo  for the SA Police Service said.

The suspects fled into the bushes towards Zimbabwe side. Most of the cars are being smuggled across the river through the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, south of Beitbridge border post.

In December, police recovered a Hilux bakkie when thieves attempted to smuggle it through the river. The bakkie was stolen in Durban.

It was semi-submerged in the water when Limpopo police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nneke Ledwaba spotted it from a helicopter while he was leading a high-density operation in Musina and Beitbridge.

The vehicle and donkeys were abandoned in the middle of the river and the suspect fled into Zimbabwe. It is not clear why the thieves do not simply driver the car into Zimbabwe – one reason might be that most modern cars are fitted with a tracking device which uses satellite tracking to locate a vehicle, if stolen. The tracker is only active when the car is running.

Mojapelo said 13 vehicles have been recovered since January this year. Thieves target luxury bakkies, SUV’s, specifically Toyota and Isuzu. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the two provinces that are mostly affected.

Last week, four vehicles were recovered. A Range Rover worth R900 000 was recovered after police intercepted it at the Beitbridge border post. The vehicle was en route to Malawi. The man was arrested and was found in possession of cash with an estimated amount of R30 000.

Mojapelo said the car had Limpopo registration numbers, but it was still unclear where it was stolen. Source: Pictures – SAPS and article – Iavan Pijoos, News24, 2 August 2017.

rock-lobster3

Cape Town businessman Arnold Bengis drained South Africa’s seas – and now it is payback time.

A US court has ordered the 81-year-old to pay South Africa $37-million (about R483-million) for catching thousands of tons of rock lobster over 14 years.

The restitution amount replaces a $21-million payment Bengis agreed to make to South Africa in 2004. Because he paid only $1.25-million and placed the rest “out of reach of the US”, Manhattan District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan sentenced him on Wednesday to more than four years’ imprisonment.

Kaplan ordered an immediate arrest warrant for Bengis, now living in Israel. State attorney Kiersten Fletcher said US authorities would try to extradite him.

Said the judge: “There is value to Mr Bengis understanding that.there may be a knock at the door and a pair of handcuffs in his future.”

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries wanted $100-million in restitution but it welcomed Kaplan’s judgment.

“We are fairly satisfied with the $37-million, but we hope [Bengis] won’t appeal it, so the payment will be effected as soon as possible,” said the department’s Thembalethu Vico.

Although Bengis’s activities stopped 17 years ago, damage to the coastal ecosystem was still depriving fishing communities of access to resources, he said.

Former department head of fisheries Horst Kleinschmidt, who testified in the District Court in 2004 about Bengis’s fishing activities, quoted research that suggested free-falling rock lobster stocks “immediately stabilised” after his operation was stopped.

He said yesterday that when officials discovered the extent of Bengis’s plunder “it made nonsense of any scientific inquiry” into environmental factors behind declining fish stocks.

“He hired lots of little fishermen with boats to supply him with contraband fish stocks. The decline is evident in the total allowable catch figures, which the scientists set lower and lower. Once he was caught, we realised he was a major source of that,” he said.

His fleet of trawlers overfished more than 2200t of West Coast rock lobster between 1987 and 2000. The $37-million was the proceeds of just one year, plus interest, said an Ocean and Land Resources Assessment Consultants report.South Africa will be the first foreign government to be compensated under a 117-year-old US law, the Lacey Act, which regulates imports of protected species.

Department lawyer Barnabas Xulu said it took his team six months to prepare for the case and hailed the ruling as “ground-breaking”, but conceded there could still be challenges ahead.

During arguments in court, Kaplan told Bengis’s attorney, Eric Creizman, his client “rearranged” his assets, amounting to $25-million, into a Channel Islands fund so the US government could not reach it. Source: Times Live (2017, July 21)

A Hong Kong woman was caught late last month crossing the border into the mainland with an impressive 102 iPhones taped to her body — apparently, Shenzhen customs officers became a wee bit suspicious after noticing the woman’s unusually bulky clothing and strange stride.

They ordered her to take a walk through the X-ray scanner, which promptly sounded its alarm. A check revealed not only more than a hundred iPhones, but also 15 Tissot watches that were taped around her chest. In total, the smuggled items weighed about 20 kilograms, according to an Oriental Daily.

Vietnam-Ivory

Vietnamese authorities have seized nearly three tonnes of ivory hidden among boxes of fruit, officials said on Sunday, the latest haul to spotlight the country’s key role in the global wildlife smuggling trade.

Police in the central province of Thanh Hoa found 2.7 tonnes of tusks inside cartons on the back of a truck that was on its way to Hanoi, according to their website.

“This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province,” the report said.State media said the elephant tusks originated from South Africa.

The truck driver claimed he was unaware of what he was transporting, according to a report in state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

There are now believed to be some 415,000, with 30,000 illegally killed each year. Prices for a kilogramme of ivory can reach as high as US$1,100 (Dh4,040).

Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but the country remains a top market for ivory products prized locally for decorative purposes, or in traditional medicine despite having no proven medicinal qualities.

Weak law enforcement in the communist country has allowed a black market to flourish, and Vietnam is also a busy thoroughfare for tusks trafficked from Africa destined for other parts of Asia, mainly China.

Last October, Vietnam customs authorities discovered about 3.5 tonnes of elephant tusks at Cat Lai port in Ho Chi Minh city, all in crates of wood, including a hefty two-tonne haul packed into a single shipment.

In 2015, 2.2 tonnes of tusks, originating from Mozambique, were discovered and seized northern Hai Phong port.

And last week authorities in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tonnes of ivory, the largest haul in the city for three decades.

While low level couriers are sometimes arrested across Asia very few wildlife trafficking kingpins are brought to justice. Source: The National

Customs officers in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tons of ivory from a shipping container arriving from Malaysia on July 4.

The seizure was made at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound, and once its weight is confirmed, the haul could become a record seizure – the largest ever recorded in the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database – narrowly surpassing the 7.138 tons seized in Singapore in 2002.

According to a government media release, the consignment was declared as “frozen fish” and the tusks hidden beneath frozen fish cartons.

The massive seizure underlines both Malaysia’s and Hong Kong’s role as key smuggling hubs in the international trafficking of ivory. Three people – a man and two women were arrested in connection with the seizure.

The ETIS database is managed by the NGO TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It contains tens of thousands of elephant-product seizure records dating back to 1989.

Under CITES guidelines, any seizure of 500kg or more is considered indicative of the involvement of organized crime. All parties making such large-scale seizures are obliged to examine them forensically as part of follow-up investigations.

Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia, said, “No doubt Hong Kong’s geographic location coupled with the currently relatively lenient penalties in place for anyone convicted of wildlife crime are reasons behind the shipment coming through the port. The case for increasing penalties has never been stronger.”

Hong Kong is currently reviewing its legislation regarding wildlife crime and the Legislative Council is currently debating plans to phase out the territory’s domestic ivory trade over the next five years, a timescale that is out of step with neighboring mainland China which intends to end its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Source: Maritime Executive/TRAFFIC/HongKong Government – Photo’s: Alex Hofford/WildAid.

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Dubai Customs has introduced a sophisticated scanner that can detect 25 controlled and banned items in 25 seconds, in a bid to clamp down on smuggling. “The Ionscan 500DT can also detect as little drugs or explosives as one nanogram — which is one billionth of a gram” — according to Mohammad Juma Nasser Buossaiba, Director-General of the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

The highly sensitive scanner, equipped with HD touchscreen, is one of many other advanced equipment the authority has provided the Dubai Customs with in order to tightly secure all the crossing borders of the emirate. The new devices are in line with a memorandum of understanding signed recently between the UAE Federal Customs Authority and Dubai Customs. The Federal Customs Authority will also provide training to Dubai Customs staff on how to use the new devices, apart from the regular maintenance. Source: CustomsToday.pk and WCO IRIS

atlas_ByZaYFusl

The notices detailing President Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, attractive wall” were made public late Friday (3 April 2017) by Customs and Border Protection. The request from the Customs and Border Protection Department called for a 30-ft-high wall, but said that plans to build a wall minimum 18 ft in height may be acceptable.

“The north side of wall (i.e. USA facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”, reads the RFP. In the documents, CBP says that the side facing the US must also be “aesthetically pleasing” in “color, anti-climb texture etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”.

And that’s before a new Trump budget, which came out Thursday, includes $2.6 billion over two years to begin construction of the wall. The government is asking for a 9-meter-high concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground, built to be “physically imposing” and capable of resisting nearly any attack, “by sledgehammer, vehicle jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch”.

Earlier this week Mexican lawmakers increased pressure on Mexican construction firms tempted to help build deeply reviled wall.

The proposal document asks contractors for 30-foot-long prototypes and mock-ups of 10 feet by 10 feet. Although Trump made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign to get the Mexican government tol pay for the wall, expectations are low that the U.S.’s southern neighbor will give money while it’s being built or afterwards.

The specifications leave almost all of the design work to interested bidders, who now have about two weeks to develop and submit their plans, known as proposals. Trump called for the wall to stop illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and to cut off drug-smuggling routes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in January that the wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, though other estimates have put the price tag as high $25 billion.

There was some misplaced optimism that Donald Trump would immediately jettison all of his inane campaign promises upon taking office; that the threat of a wall at the Mexican border would be quietly tabled for its obvious insanity.

Proponents of a wall make two questionable assumptions: First, that there will be a continued north flow of refugees. Friday’s release did not address the overall cost of the wall. The city of Berkeley, California, said last week it would refuse to do business with any company that’s part of the border wall. The cost of about 1,000 miles of wall could cost $21.6 billion between now and 2020. Published on Aliveforfootbal website

Belissima!

March 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has seized a Ferrari that was smuggled into the country. The luxury vehicle worth an estimated R13.8m was stored at a warehouse in South Africa since 2014.

In February 2015, however, the vehicle’s owner submitted an export declaration to take the car to the Democratic Republic of Congo through Beitbridge border post. A day later, there was an attempt to have the vehicle returned to South Africa through the same border post.

The vehicle has been detained and a letter of intent has been issued to the owner in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act No 3 of 2000 to enable them to make representation to SARS.

cigarettes

The Zimbabwe Herald suggests that Zimbabwe could be losing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes due to rampant smuggling of cigarettes into South Africa, investigations by this paper have revealed.Between 2014 and 2015, local customs officials seized nearly 2 500 cartons worth around $500 000 in taxes, according to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

Figures from the South African side are staggering, showing a wide discrepancy in the value of confiscated contraband between the two neighbouring southern African countries.

The South African Revenue Service told The Herald Business that it had seized R87 million (US$6,2 million) worth of Zimbabwean cigarettes since 2014, or 95 million sticks.

This will likely be worth millions of dollars in evaded tax in Zimbabwe, but the ZIMRA director for legal and corporate services Ms Florence Jambwa said the figures were difficult to determine because smuggling was an underground trade.

South Africa, however, says it loses an estimated R40 million (US$2,9 million) to cigarette smuggling each year, on the average, more than half of it Zimbabwe-related.

And this is just from what is on public record. Customs officials from both countries admit the figures could be higher. Both are also greatly incapacitated to detect illegal trades quickly.

“It is difficult to measure the levels of smuggling as this is an underground activity mostly done through undesignated entry points,” said ZIMRA’s Jambwa, by email.

“The value of the potential loss cannot be easily ascertained,” she said, failing to provide an estimate.

Tax analyst Mr Tendai Mavhima said the figures from ZIMRA represent only a small portion of the actual amount of money Zimbabwe is losing to trafficking of cigarettes.

“The disparity in figures (ZIMRA and SARS figures) indicate there are problems in controls on either side, which may result in the revenue and tax losses from both countries being understated,” he said by telephone.

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of tobacco after China, the USA, Brazil and India.

The country produces flue-cured Virginia tobacco, considered to be of extremely high quality and flavour, according to a report on Zimbabwean tobacco companies by local stockbroking firm, IH Securities.

As such, Zimbabwean tobacco ends up in many top cigarette brands across the world, it says.

It is especially popular in China, the largest importer of Zimbabwean tobacco, and in South Africa, the country’s largest trading partner.

In South Africa, Zimbabwean cigarettes are on demand for two key reasons: high quality and affordability.

It costs just $1,50 for 20 sticks in Zimbabwe compared to $3,20 for the same number of sticks in South Africa, according to estimates by regional economic bloc, SADC.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said: “Cigarette clientele opt for cheaper cigarettes. The high supply and demand for illicit cigarettes creates the market for it.”

South Africa imposes very high taxes on cigarette imports – about 80 percent meaning many Zimbabwean dealers choose to export illegally.

SADC says illegal dealers supply nearly two thirds of the number of cigarettes smoked by South Africans.

In 2011 alone, at least 4 billion cigarettes smuggled into South Africa originated from Zimbabwe, it says.

The undeclared cigarettes are usually concealed in trucks, buses and other vehicles destined for South Africa by organised cartels, said Florence Jambwa of ZIMRA.

Sometimes the cargo is shipped at undesignated points on the porous border between the two countries. Source: Zimbabwe Herald