Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Police Border Control Unit on Tuesday intercepted a contraband of export quality cigarettes worth $760 000 in a South Africa-bound goods train in Beitbridge.The train was on its way from Bulawayo.
Police intercepted the train at the main railway station in Beitbridge at around 8am following a tip- off.
Train drivers allegedly lied to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) that all the wagons were empty.
Investigators from the Ferret Squad were yet to locate the owners of the contraband by yesterday.
The Ferret Squad is made up of officials from Zimra, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Immigration and other security agents.
When The Herald news crew arrived at the crime scene, officials from Zimra were still carrying the cigarettes to a secure warehouse in the border town.
“We received a tip-off that the goods train had a consignment of cigarettes which were being smuggled into South Africa and that the train had delayed its arrival in Beitbridge by six hours.
“The train stopped for longer than necessary at Jopembi area, some 80km along the Beitbridge- Bulawayo railway line. At the moment the police are yet to make any arrests and we suspect the cigarettes could have been loaded in that area. We are yet to interview the train drivers,” said a member of the Ferret Squad.
He said the consignment comprised 900 boxes of Kingdom and 50 boxes of Chelsea cigarette brands.
The police spokesman for Matabeleland South province, Inspector Philisani Ndebele, said they were yet to get a report on the incident.
In a related incident on the same day, police intercepted a further 72 boxes of cigarettes worth about US$57 6 00 which were being transported to South Africa along the Beitbridge-Masvingo road near Bubi River.
On Monday two Harare men were fined US$1 000 each by a Beitbridge magistrate after they were convicted of attempting to smuggle 846 boxes of cigarettes to South Africa.
It is understood that the South African Revenue Services (SARS) charges high rates for cigarette imports, which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Investigations by The Herald revealed that most of the cigarettes are 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$135 on the official market (Zimbabwe) and R8 000 in South Africa.