OFFICIALS in South Africa’s Limpopo province last Friday recovered Zimbabwean made cigarettes worth R1,5 million that were being smuggled into that country.
In a joint operation conducted in Musina, the South African Police Service (SAPS), South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) and National Traffic officers following a tip-off intercepted three vehicles ferrying the contraband and one suspected stolen car.
However, all occupants of the cars fled and no arrests were made.
In a statement, police spokesperson for Limpopo province Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said: “A Mazda sedan, a Nissan panel van, a Toyota Quantum and a Chrysler SUV were stopped at different intervals.”
The vehicles were caught following car chases after suspects refused to comply.
Police recovered 57 boxes with 50 cartons of cigarettes, 87 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with 21 cartons and two boxes each with 20 packets of other cigarettes and 15 Master boxes containing 47 cartons and seven packets carried in the cars collectively.
The cigarettes all of Zimbabwean origin were smuggled through informal crossing points.
“The total value of the recovered properties is estimated at R1 454 428. The fourth vehicle, a Chrysler, did not have the cigarettes, but it is suspected to be stolen,” Mojapelo said.
Cigarettes demand in South Africa rose after the COVID-19 lockdown which saw the closure of beer outlets and banning of cigarette sales.
A source said Zimbabwean cigarettes were preferred because of their high standards and expert preparation.