SOUTH African police have found 1 279 boxes of unlicensed tobacco worth R10 million (US$700,000) which they say was smuggled from Zimbabwe.
The tobacco was found stashed inside a warehouse in Eastern Cape, and the owner of the storage facility has been arrested after he attempted to bribe cops.
News24 reports that the unprocessed tobacco was found at a warehouse in the town’s Thorn Park, and come through into South Africa via the Beit Bridge border post.
The East London police made the bust in collaboration with customs officers. A 31-year-old male suspect was arrested for possession of unprocessed tobacco and bribery. The nationality or identity of this man was not ascertained.
News24 quotes police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana saying SAPS’ Rural Safety members and custom officials stormed the warehouse and discovered stacks of numerous boxes of unprocessed tobacco.
He said the suspect was arrested for possession of the product and illegal activities that allegedly took place inside the alleged rented business premises.
Kinana said during the operation, police discovered about 1 279 boxes weighing a total of 200 kilograms of both raw and cut rag tobacco.
He added that the suspect allegedly attempted to bribe the customs officials with an undisclosed amount of money to evade arrest.
The customs officials reported the matter to the police who had since confiscated the alleged cash and added another charge of bribery, said Kinana.
The confiscated contraband had an estimated street value of US$700,000, said Kinana.
Acting provincial police commissioner Major-General Zithulele Dladla commended the work of the police in partnership with customs officials.
Dladla said: “It is this kind of collaboration and information sharing that will ensure our success in breaking the backbone of the criminal network. I trust that our detectives will dig more into these despicable activities in order to expose even those who may have been part of the plan and business.
“The suspect is due to appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court once he’s charged for possession of unprocessed tobacco and bribery.”
The possibility of additional charges could not be ruled out and the investigation continued, said Kinana.
Eastern Cape police said the arrest came after customs officials at the border post stopped a truck with a cargo of unlicensed tobacco destined for East London.
Customs officials informed their colleagues in East London about a Warehouse in Kleipheuvel Road as the cargo’s destination. □