Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Ferret team on Wednesday intercepted a truck load of 790 boxes export quality cigarettes worth US$119 000 destined for South Africa through an illegal crossing point along the Limpopo River.
It is understood that the cigarettes are worth R5,6 million on the South African market. The Ferret team is made up of the police, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and other security agents.
Sources close to the investigations said that the driver, Stanley Thinthitha Mpofu (56) of Mkoba in Gweru and Liberty Amisi Nyanguwo (26) of Eastlea in Harare, had been arrested in connection with the matter.
The duo was intercepted at around 5am at Matshiloni area some 45km along the Beitbridge-Masvingo Road where they intended to offload the contraband into small trucks for onward transportation to an illegal crossing point, Musetshe area along the Limpopo River.
The truck, ABB2401 towing a trailer, ABC0085 belongs to Textain Investments of Uppington Road, Ardbennie, Harare.
The two suspects are now in custody while the truck and the contraband have been seized by Zimra. Mpofu and Nyanguwo are likely to be charged for illegal possession of goods liable for excise duty.
The Remmington Gold cigarettes were loaded in Harare and we have since established that Nyanguwo was escorting the contraband, said the source.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Philisani Ndebele said he was yet to get the details.
South Africa charges high rates on cigarette imports from outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) which includes Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana, which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Investigations revealed that most of these cigarettes will be repackaged when they get to South Africa before being shipped to either Europe or Asia.
A box of cigarettes is sold for an average of US$150 on the official market (Zimbabwe) and R8 000 in South Africa.