Tobacco smuggling: SA Hawks get R800 000 asset forfeiture order SA police officers holding smuggled cigarettes' from Zimbabwe before they were destroyed. (File photo)

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau

South Africa’s specialised police unit, the Hawks’ Assets Forfeiture Investigation (AFI) has successfully secured preservation orders to seize properties valued at over R800 000 from suspected cigarette dealers.

The orders were issued by the Limpopo High Court Division in Polokwane on 21 and 22 February as authorities continued with their clamp down on the smuggling of cigarettes between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

A preservation letter may also be called a preservation order, a litigation hold, or a hold order.

This is a letter instructing the recipient not to destroy, alter, or delete any documents helpful to the sender. This letter is critical in today’s world where most documents are electronically stored.

Hawks spokesperson for Limpopo province Warrant Officer Lethunya Mmuroa confirmed the development on Wednesday.

“During August 2022, police confiscated a vehicle of the accused, Dedschen Tedasse Fantaye, an Ethiopian national following his arrest for unlawful possession of illicit cigarettes,” said the senior police officer.

“Following the arrest, the accused tried to offer the police a gratification to get his vehicle back. The R10 000 was seized from him after he indicated that the money was for gratification.

“The Asset Forfeiture Investigation was then tasked with the investigation and further referred to the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) for an application of preservation order. On 21 February 2024, the Limpopo High Court Division in Polokwane issued a preservation order for the R10 000 cash.”

Warrant Officer Mmuroa said they had also secured preservation orders to seize a Toyota Hilux valued at R107 400, a Volvo truck, trailers and a Mazda 3 all worth R574 100.

The Toyota Hilux loaded with illicit cigarettes was impounded by the police in May last year and the matter was handed over to the AFI for further investigations.

According to the official, the owner of the vehicle could not be traced and during the investigation it was later discovered that the suspects ran away when it came to light that they had contraband cigarettes.

“The previous owner of the recovered vehicle was traced and confirmed that the vehicle was sold to a Zimbabwean national and didn’t change ownership for the said vehicle used in the commission of crime,” said Warrant Officer Mmuroa.

A few months ago, the same court issued another order for the Hawks to hold property worth R4 million they recovered recently for 11 people they found smuggling cigarettes from Zimbabwe.

The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River is rife.

Thirty percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles.

Ideally, a box of cigarettes is bought at US$120 from local producers and sold for between US$250 and US$300 to the syndicates who then smuggle them into South Africa where they sell for anything above R15 000.

Those who illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per box and in most cases this is done under the cover of darkness.

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