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R1,4m contraband seized Soldiers inspect a vehicle that was filled with smuggled cigarettes in South Africa yesterday

Thupeyo Muleya

Beitbridge Bureau

South African police in Limpopo intercepted four vehicles carrying cigarettes worth R1,4 million suspected to have been smuggled from Zimbabwe across the Limpopo River.

Owners of the contraband disappeared into the night last Friday upon spotting security patrols near Musina.

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlefela Mojapelo said further investigations were underway.

“The police, South African Defence Forces, and traffic officers received information about suspects transporting illicit cigarettes and immediately followed it up,” he said.

“A roadblock was set up and the vehicles were observed coming from Tshipise towards the direction of N1 Road. The four vehicles — a Mazda sedan, Nissan paddle van, Toyota Quatum and a Chrysler SUV.”

Police tried to stop the four, and eventually seized all four after drivers and passengers abandoned the vehicles and two of them were damaged in accidents in the pursuit.

The Nissan pick-up truck sped off, turned into the nearby gravel road with the police in pursuit. The driver lost control and knocked against a fence. Those aboard then got out and ran into the nearby bush.

Brig Mojapelo said the driver and the passenger in the Toyota Quntum jumped off the moving vehicle and escaped. The vehicle then hit a pole and stopped.

The Mazda made a U-turn but police gave chase and the suspects abandoned the vehicle and fled into the nearby bush.

The Chrysler, which did not have cigarettes aboard and is suspected to have been stolen, was also abandoned by the suspects after they were cornered by police.

He said a search of the vehicles led to the discovery of cigarettes worth a combined R1 454 428.

Investigations on the origin and destination of the recovered properties are underway, and people with information that can lead to the arrest of the suspects involved in this matter, may contact Colonel Mamuhoyi on 002782 414 6683 or the crime stop number 0027860010111 or the nearest Police station.

Cigarettes are heavily taxed in South Africa and smugglers take advantage of the price gaps between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

It is possible to sell smuggled cigarettes in South Africa at a significant discount and still make a handsome profit.

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