SARS – Rhino horn found in luggage at OR Tambo International Airport

Customs officers of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), in collaboration with other government departments, intercepted the luggage of a female South African passenger at OR Tambo International Airport which contained twelve (12) pieces of rhino horn weighing  30.7 kilograms.

The interception of the rhino horn came after the SARS Customs and other government officials received a tip-off regarding a passenger travelling to Dubai.

The Customs team reacted swiftly and accompanied the female passenger to the Customs area for further Customs inspection. The two luggage bags and a box were inspected by a baggage scanner that identified irregular images suspected to be rhino horn.

This led to a physical inspection of the luggage and box in which twelve (12) pieces of rhino horn, weighing 30.7kg were found. The passenger together with the rhino horn were handed to the South African Police Service after which a criminal case was opened for further investigation.

Between July 2020 and December 2021, a total of 125 pieces of rhino horn, weighing 452 kilograms, were seized at OR Tambo International Airport.

  • December 2021: Six (6) pieces of rhino horn, weighing 4kg declared as ‘Personal Effects’, bound for China.
  • December 2021: Five (5) pieces of rhino horn, weighing 10kg declared as ‘Scanners’, bound for Malaysia.
  • July 2021; Thirty-Two (32) pieces of rhino horn, weighing 160kg declared as ‘Live Plants, bound for Malaysia.
  • February 2021: eighteen (18) pieces of rhino horn, weighing 63kg declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers’, bound for Malaysia.
  • December 2020: seventeen (17) pieces of Rhino Horn weighing 72.4kg concealed in a geyser bound for Malaysia.
  • September 2020: six (6) pieces, weighing 4.9kg declared as “Coffee Beans”, bound for Malaysia.
  • July 2020: forty-one (41) pieces, weighing 137kg declared as “Fine Arts”, bound for Malaysia via Doha.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter expressed his sincere thanks to Customs officers and their counterparts from South African Police Service for working diligently to curb the smuggling of rhino horn and many related crimes.

He said, “We will leave no stone unturned to detect and prosecute these criminal syndicates and individuals who break the law.  SARS and the law enforcement agencies will spare no efforts to ensure they are brought to book.”

For more information, contact SarsMedia@sars.gov.za

R12-million drug bust at OR Tambo Airport

SARS Customs intercepted a male traveller from Tanzania carrying narcotics worth over R12-million at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday (24 January 2016).

The bust took place when the 36-year old man, who was carrying two large suitcases, was asked to put his luggage through the Customs scanner. The scanner image revealed 10 clear plastic bags that contained a white crystal substance.

Upon investigation this turned out to be 10 bags of Ephedrine. The total weight of the consignment was 40.20 kg with an estimated street value of R12 060 000. The man has been handed over to the South African Police Service and he is expected to appear in court. Source and photos: SARS

SARS R78 million Airport Cash Bust

Johannesburg – They [smugglers] had cash stashed in 11 pieces of luggage including four backpacks – R78 million destined for the United Arab Emirates.

But eagle-eyed customs officials at OR Tambo International Airport were on to them and confiscated the bags with R23m and $3.775m in notes.

On the same day, R50m worth of cocaine stashed in hair product bottles was seized at the same airport, in one of the biggest crime-busting days at OR Tambo.

On Monday, SA Revenue Service (Sars) officials said five people had been arrested after being caught with the undeclared cash as they were about to leave South Africa.

“Risk profiling earlier by Sars custom officials identified the passengers, and led to their apprehension as they boarded the aircraft at 9.45pm.

“Upon noticing the officials, the passengers retreated and headed back to the entrance of the boarding gate. At this point, officials closed the boarding gate door and the passengers were compelled to wait for the Sars officials,” Sars said.

When asked whether they had any currency, one of the passengers apparently said he had R100 000 and that the other members of the group had currency with them.

“The five individuals were escorted back to immigration at international arrivals, booked back into South Africa and escorted to customs.”

Sars spokesperson Luther Lebelo said the bags with the cash had been handed over to the SA Reserve Bank.

“The matter has been handed over to the SA Reserve Bank for further investigations. Once the bank is satisfied that there is an element of criminality, they can take the matter to the police,” he said.

The arrests on Friday – details of which were released on Tuesday – followed a R50m drug bust at the airport. National police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the consignment of cocaine, weighing about 143kg, was one of the largest drug recoveries at a South African port of entry.

“The drugs were hidden in 147 hair products bottles and were found during a routine inspection at the cargo section. The consignment arrived from Brazil, and information displayed on the cargo indicated it was in transit to Cotonou, Benin, in West Africa,” he said.

Other drug busts at OR Tambo over the past month include:

  • The confiscation of 60 000 Viagra tablets with a street value of R6m at the airport’s mailing centre.
  • Cocaine weighing 3.46kg and valued at R993 020, found in the backpack of a passenger in transit from Sao Paulo and headed for Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Sixty-five packages of crystal meth valued at R4.2m, confiscated while being loaded into a bakkie in the cargo area.
  • Heroin valued at R201 810 destined for Spain and Ireland, discovered along with 2kg of cannabis at the airport’s mailing centre.

Source: The Star