Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Limpopo police have intercepted a contraband of cigarettes worth R1, 7 million that had been smuggled from Zimbabwe and was being transported inland South Africa in four vehicles.
The incident occurred near Makhado town at around 3 am on Monday.
Two suspects whose nationalities are yet to be ascertained were arrested following a high-speed chase with the police while several others abandoned their vehicles and escaped on foot.
South African Police Services (SAPS) police spokesperson (Limpopo), Lieutenant Colonel Malasela Ledwaba confirmed the incident yesterday.
“In an effort to curb illicit economy-related crimes, members of our provincial tracking team reacted promptly and arrested two suspects in the early hours of Monday, at around 3 am, along the N1 north near Louis Trichardt and subsequently recovered illicit cigarettes worth R1, 7 million,” he said.
“The suspects were intercepted following a tip-off about a group of suspects allegedly travelling in a number of vehicles transporting illicit cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa”.
Lt Col Ledwaba said when the four vehicles were spotted driving in a convoy, the police tried to stop them but they sped off.
He said a car chase ensued and the suspects abandoned the vehicles and ran away on foot towards the nearby farms.
The police managed to arrest two of the suspects aged 37 and 45, who are both migrants.
“The four vehicles, a Ford Territory SUV, Toyota Quantum, Volvo SUV, and Nissan Hardbody were searched and about 130 boxes containing illicit cigarettes worth R1,7 million were confiscated.
Preliminary police investigations have also revealed that the suspects were in the country illegally,” said Lt Col Ledwaba.
He said the suspects will appear before the Makhado magistrate’s court today charged with dealing in illicit cigarettes and contravention of a section of the Immigration Act.
“The search for the remaining suspects continues. Anyone with information that can lead to their apprehension should contact Detective Sergeant Phaladi Makola on 0027 82 749 2233 or Lieutenant Richard Boshomane on 002779 894 5501 or the crime stop number 0027860010111or the nearest police station,” added Lt Col Ledwaba.
The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River relatively increased in April 2020, prompting security from both countries to intensify anti-smuggling initiatives.
It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.