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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

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Vietnam Custom ivory seizureCustoms officers in central Vietnam have seized a tonne of ivory and four tonnes of the scaly hide of the pangolin, according to authorities today.

Officials found the contraband on Tuesday inside a shipping container labelled as carrying red beans from Malaysia that arrived at the central port city of Da Nang on Aug 10.

“This is the largest amount of ivory and pangolin smuggling we have discovered in Da Nang,” Dang Van Toan, the port’s head of customs, told the German Press Agency.

The pangolin is an endangered type of armoured anteater found in parts of Asia and Africa. The flesh is sold as an exclusive, but illegal, meat, and the hide is used for traditional medicine and fashion.

The weight of the hides found this week corresponds to around 4,000 individuals, Le Xuan Canh, former head of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, told DPA. Tuesday’s haul brings to nearly eight tonnes the total of tusks, horns and hide from endangered species impounded over the past two weeks in Da Nang.

Last Friday the port’s customs officers seized more than two tonnes of elephant tusks. Eight days earlier they confiscated nearly a tonne of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns, authorities said.

The three shipments were posted to two local companies, which have denied any knowledge of the smuggling, said Pham Van Thieng, deputy head of the central region’s anti-smuggling team.

Trafficking of endangered species and their parts violates international law. Like elephant ivory and rhino horn, pangolin is considered a sign of status among some of Vietnam’s wealthy elite.

Namibian police inspect over 1,000 boxes of impounded cigarettes at a roadblock in Rundu [Coastweek]

Namibian police inspect over 1,000 boxes of impounded cigarettes at a roadblock in Rundu [Coastweek]

Two suspects have appeared in a Namibian regional court Monday in connection with more than 1,000 cartons of cigarettes confiscated by the police Thursday last week.The two, both said to be Zimbabweans, appeared before a Rundu Magistrate in the northern Kavango region after their arrest over the 11.3 million Namibian dollars (940,000 U.S. dollars) cigarette contraband destined for South Africa.

The two were each charged with two counts of contravening the Custom and Excise Act 20 of 1998 and non-declaration of goods upon entering Namibia as well as the Prevention of Organized Crime Act 29 of 2004 of money laundering.

The accused persons were not asked to plead and their case was then postponed to July 8 for further police investigation. Acting on a tip-off, customs officials and the police raided two trucks en-route to South Africa and discovered 1,130 boxes that were hidden in fuel tankers. Source: http://www.spyghana.com/

cigarettes1Three Zimbabweans and a South African were arrested in Limpopo province for allegedly teaming up and smuggling cigarettes worth $200,000 into the neighbouring country. The Zimbabwean trio, Takuzo Mutswiro, 22, Tatenda Nyamhunga, 31, Joseph Mhembwe, 27 and Gilbert Mamburu, 54, a South African from Tshiozwi village in Limpopo province, were arrested last week at Tshilwavhusiku near Thohoyandou after police intercepted a truck they were using to transport the cigarettes.

Limpopo provincial spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto, in a statement, said police followed up on information they received about suspicious activities at Mamburu’s house. Upon arrival at the scene, the three Zimbabweans attempted to run away, but were apprehended. Cigarettes with an estimated value of more than R2 million were found hidden in a small truck as well as a light delivery truck. It is suspected the cigarettes were smuggled from Zimbabwe, however their origin and destination is still being investigated.

Lately there has been an increase in the number of cigarette smugglers being arrested in the neighbouring country. Some of the cigarettes are smuggled out of the country through undesignated entry points along the crocodile-infested Limpopo River while others find their way into South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post despite the presence of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) scanners.The machines are able to detect concealed goods hidden in sealed containers.

The South Africa reportedly charges high rates on cigarette imports, which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Most of these cigarettes are repackaged when they get to South Africa before being shipped to either Europe or Asia.

According to the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Beitbridge Border Post accounts for 70 percent of the cigarettes which are smuggled into that country. A recent statement from the South African Police Service said cigarette smuggling from Zimbabwe was being prioritised after it emerged the country supplied 55 to 70 percent of the 10 billion cigarettes reaching the neighbouring country’s black market. Source: The Chronical (Zimbabwe) & Customstoday.com

CigarettesAn intricate web of smugglers, which reportedly involves manufacturers and middlemen, has been illegally carting cigarettes worth millions of dollars out of the country over the years, prejudicing the treasury of vital revenue.

Cigarette manufacturer, Savanna, has been fingered as one of the main culprits, while multinationals like BAT have also been mentioned in the illicit cross-border trade, mainly to South Africa.

Commonly smuggled brands include Remington Gold, Madison, Sevilles, Magazine Blue, Chelsea and Pacific Blue, manufactured by Savanna – which consistently denies smuggling.

A senior police sokesperson said “Even though we don’t always talk about it, we have managed to make significant arrests and the cases have been taken to court. The arrests include smuggling attempts at undesignated spots along the border and through official exit points such as Beitbridge”

A senior customs official told The Zimbabwean that cigarette smuggling, particularly through Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts, was difficult to arrest because of corruption.

“Policing at the border posts involves several agencies, namely the police, CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation), customs and special deployments from ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority). The problem is that these officers work in collaboration with the smugglers and haulage trucks and other containers carrying the cigarettes are cleared without proper checking. Hefty bribes are involved and the money is too tempting to resist,” said the customs official.

“You would be amazed how wealthy these officers have become. They have bought houses, luxury cars and send their children to expensive schools – yet their regular salaries are so low,” he added.

Immigration and customs officials, who also constantly liaise with their South African and Botswana counterparts and meet physically regularly, pretend to be checking the containers but clear them without completing the task, and know what the trucks and other carriers would be ferrying.

ZIMRA has four scanners for detecting contraband and an anti-smuggling team that also uses sniffer dogs, in addition to guard soldiers posted between the Zimbabwean and South African borders.

There are about 15 regular roadblocks along the Harare-Beitbridge road and 10 between Bulawayo and Plumtree that search trucks, buses and private cars. Despite this, the smuggling continues because of the collusion among the officials, said the source.

In early January, the Ferret team, a joint operation involving Zimbabwean and South African officers, intercepted a truckload of 790 Remington Gold cigarettes worth an estimated $119,000 destined for South Africa along the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. The smugglers were caught and arrested while offloading the cartons into small trucks. Source: The Zimbabwean

Pacific Blue_SnapseedRelatives of President Robert Mugabe are being linked to illegal tobacco smuggling networks suspected of bringing more than $48 million in contraband through South Africa’s borders, reports NewZimbabwe.com.

Harare-based Savanna Tobacco is owned by a prominent Zimbabwean businessman, Adam Molai, who is married to Sandra Mugabe, one of Mugabe’s nieces. Molai has previously worked with Sandra as co-director of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Growing Company. Savanna has allegedly moved tons of illegal tobacco into South Africa.

The company’s main brand, Pacific cigarettes, has been found in concealed consignments by police in South Africa and abroad, according to two private investigators who track tobacco busts and work for the industry to counter the trade in illicit tobacco. The products have been linked to a huge tobacco smuggling operation whose base in South Africa was shut down in 2010 by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which is engaged in a crackdown on the country’s illegal tobacco markets.

Images taken at the scene of two busts in South Africa and one in Zimbabwe show the extent of the smuggling operation. SARS has refused to confirm or deny whether it is investigating Savanna, citing the confidentiality requirements of the Tax Administration Act.

The frequency of the busts, the methods used and the quantities of illegal Pacific cigarettes found have led sources close to the investigations to claim that Savanna has been centrally involved for at least four years. It also increases suspicions that Zimbabwe is using smuggling to keep its economy afloat. Mugabe has openly supported Savanna. A year ago, he accused rival British American Tobacco (BAT) of spying on Savanna and hijacking its trucks. “If this is what you are doing in order to kill competition and you do it in a bad way, somebody will answer for it,” Mugabe warned.

Boxes of cigarettes that can be made for as little as R1.50 are easy to slip into the local market to avoid the R13 tax a box. Whereas popular brands of cigarettes can retail at R35 a pack, illegal cigarettes sell for between R4 and R12 a pack. With margins approaching 1000%, the illicit trade has become one of the largest elements in organised crime in South Africa.

According to research commissioned by the Tobacco Institute of South Africa, which is predominantly funded by BAT, 9.5billion illegal cigarettes with a street value of about R4-billion were smoked locally last year.

Savanna has captured almost 10% of this market, according to the institute, with about 700 million of its illegal cigarettes smoked last year. Pacific’s illegal cigarettes are sold mostly on the streets of Cape Town.

In one of the biggest busts in October, 1.6million Pacific cigarettes were found hidden on a train in Plumtree. Pacific cigarettes have also been seized at the Beitbridge border post near Musina and in Boksburg, on the East Rand, during busts in November. Trucks were found carrying Pacific cigarettes in concealed compartments.

This month, a consignment of Pacific cigarettes was found hidden behind electronic goods on a truck in the Western Cape. Similar busts have been made in Mozambique and at a border post between Zambia and Namibia, according to private investigators.

Evidence from the Plumtree train bust showed that the smuggling route had its origin as Savanna’s factory in Zimbabwe and South Africa’s black market as its destination. In the Plumtree bust on October 12, Zimbabwean police confiscated 40 tons of illicit Pacific cigarettes that had come from Bulawayo. The train was said to be carrying gum poles.

Records reveal that between September 2012 and August 2013 at least 23 shipments with 44 wagons of “gum poles” had followed the same route. A number of these consignments appear to have arrived at the South African business PFC Integration. According to an investigator who has studied the operation, PFC is “not into the gum pole business at all”.

 

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February 9, 2013 — Leave a comment
HCVG Inspection System - Smiths Detection

HCVG Inspection System – Smiths Detection

Smiths Detection has announced a €19m contract with the Italian Customs Agency to supply high-energy X-ray cargo scanners for deployment at six major ports including Naples, Genoa and Bari. According to Smith’s – “We have worked closely with Italian customs for many years, not only supplying detection systems but also providing the highest standard of after-market service. This latest contract underlines the continuing success of our customer-driven approach.”

The HCVG inspection systems, which can detect contraband, narcotics and weapons, will also be used for confirming cargo details to ensure customs and excise duty and trade taxes are in order. Click here for more technical details of the HCVG inspection system 

Able to inspect up to 20 containers, trucks or vans an hour, the gantry-mounted scanners can penetrate steel 330mm thick. A detailed X-ray image, which features organic and inorganic material discrimination using viZual imaging software, is produced by a single scan of the load.

Smiths Detection offers advanced security solutions in civil and military markets worldwide, developing and manufacturing government-regulated technology products that help detect and identify explosives, chemical and biological agents, radiological and nuclear threats, weapons, narcotics and contraband. It is part of Smiths Group, a global leader in applying integrated, advanced technologies to markets in threat and contraband detection, energy, medical devices, communications and engineered components. Smiths Group employs around 23,000 people in more than 50 countries. Source: Business Wire

Today, there are many different security inspection technologies available. These technologies may be combined in an attempt to achieve a better result. How the systems are combined strongly affects the results achieved, and different applications may require different combinations. This paper will examine several examples.There are three major applications for screening technology today: Revenue enhancement, contraband detection, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction detection (WMD). Several technologies that can be used are: Portal monitors, gamma ray imagers, high-energy X-ray imagers, and neutron systems. Matching the application and the technology correctly is critical. Port Technology International has published a paper on port security optimization, which addresses the various technologies and approaches towards optimisation of threats, namely revenue, weapons of mass destruction, and contraband highlighting the need for layered technology inspection systems to reduce false positives and enhance enforcement detection capabilities. Read the paper here! Source: Porttechnology.org

A 3-year covert investigation into a multi-billion rand racket at the Durban harbour has exposed an international mafia, allegedly bribing customs and police officials to allow in container-loads of contraband.

This week, a former Sars customs official was taken by surprise when Hawks and Sars investigators swooped on his Umbilo home and arrested him on 80 counts of alleged corruption. Etienne Kellerman, 47, a former Sars anti-corruption task team member, appeared in the Durban Regional Court on Tuesday. He was released on R100 000 bail and the matter was adjourned to next week. Kellerman is suspected of receiving substantial benefits for allowing contraband through. It is alleged that Sars lost millions of rand in revenue as a result. He resigned from Sars three years ago, days after he was quizzed by Sars investigators about his alleged role in the racket. His job had been to profile and identify high risk companies and containers entering the country.

A further seven Sars officials from Durban and Johannesburg were suspended for their alleged roles in the smuggling racket. Hawks investigator and project manager of this undercover operation, Colonel Brian Dafel, said that in coming weeks they would swoop on 100 more suspects in the country, including Sars officials, police and syndicate members, on charges ranging from racketeering, corruption, money laundering, extortion, murder and attempted murder.

Warrant Officer - Johan NortjeHe said the investigation was triggered by informers who tipped them off about the alleged crooked activities and racketeering at the harbour. The undercover investigation was a joint operation by the Hawks, Sars, independent law enforcement agencies and other key role players, Dafel said. He said they were also closing in on suspects believed to have ordered the hit on Warrant Officer Johan Nortjé, an officer in the police’s protection security service. He was responsible for investigating smuggling of goods and drugs through Durban harbour. A hit was allegedly ordered on his life days after he made a R100m counterfeit bust at the harbour. Nortjé was gunned down outside his Montclair home on January 17 last year, 10 days after he had made the bust.

“Nortjé was one of the few honest cops. He was aware of the container racket and was determined to expose it. He was killed because he was hampering the operation of the syndicate members,” Dafel said.

“This is a very dangerous investigation that involves extremely high levels of corruption. “Durban harbour is the biggest port authority that handles 40 percent of the containers nationally. In the past two years, during this investigation, we have seized over R1 billion worth of counterfeit goods and contraband.” He said that several witnesses had been placed in witness protection programmes as they feared for their lives. “People’s lives have been threatened and hits have been ordered. But, none of this will deter this investigation.

Dafel told the Daily News that investigations had revealed that certain SARS and police officials were working in teams between KZN and Gauteng. “This could not be done alone. They worked in groups, including those who cleared the documentation to those who inspected the containers and gave them the final clearance.

Thousands of containers pass through the harbour daily and it is impossible to check each and every one. That is how the counterfeit goods and contraband got through so easily. The syndicate members also communicate through cellphones making it a very smooth operation. He said every member of the syndicate was paid for his or her role in allowing the illegal goods through. The potential value of the illegal commodities was between R10 and R20 million for each container. The international mafia pays bribes of up to R30 000 per container that is allowed to pass through customs undetected. It is reported that one of the biggest problems is the clearing agents who work in cahoots with the police and syndicate members.

Dafel said many of the SARS and SAPS officials who were being investigated stood accused of allowing counterfeit goods or contraband to enter the country illegally, or under-evaluating containers. Since the investigation started, much stricter measures are in place at the harbour making it difficult to smuggle goods into the country. “We have closed the gap significantly for any form of corruption to take place. Also, staff know that they will be arrested and charged if they break the law,” Dafel said.

He said they were also working closely with people abroad and international law enforcement agencies to close in on the racketeers. “There are big name international companies, mainly from China, that are also being investigated. In fact, the goods imported from China are the biggest problem.” Source: Daily News E-edition

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