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Ash in transit bust: Cigarette smuggler fined R1m, 11 other suspects arrested after fighting cops

A convicted cigarette smuggler was fined R1 million in the Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

A convicted cigarette smuggler was fined R1 million in the Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

PHOTO: Alfonso Nqunjana/News24

  • A convicted cigarette smuggler has been fined R1 million.
  • He was found in possession of cigarettes valued at more than R1.7 million.
  • Meanwhile, 11 other suspected cigarette smugglers were arrested after a physical altercation with the police.

The Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crimes Court has fined a convicted cigarette smuggler R1 million.

Pathisane Khumalo, 28, was arrested in September 2022 when members of the Limpopo Highway Patrol spotted an Isuzu truck driving on the N1 near Botlokwa.

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They stopped the truck and found boxes containing illicit cigarettes in Remington Gold packaging valued at R1.7 million.

The Hawks immediately arrested Khumalo, who was driving the truck, and a passenger, Victor Sithole, 25.

“As the investigation progressed, it was established that the consignments were destined for Gauteng province,” said Hawks spokesperson, Captain Matimba Maluleke.

Khumalo was charged with contravening the Customs and Excise Act 92 of 1964, while Sithole was charged with contravening the Immigration Act. Bail was denied, and they both remained in custody until they pleaded guilty and were sentenced on Wednesday.

Aside from the R1-million fine, Khumalo was also declared unfit to own a firearm. Sithole was fined R5 000 or sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

READ | Man arrested at Beitbridge border for allegedly smuggling illicit cigarettes worth R21m into SA

Meanwhile, 11 men were arrested in Limpopo on Thursday for the alleged possession of illicit cigarettes, said police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo.

He said members of the Limpopo Tracking Team and Capricorn Highway Patrol attempted to stop 10 vehicles believed to have been smuggling cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa, while they were driving in a convoy on the N1 highway near Musina.

The vehicles sped off when the police approached, and a high-speed chase ensued. Five vehicles were cornered while the others fled. Eleven men were found in the five vehicles.

“[They] attempted to resist arrest through a physical altercation with the members. However, they were ultimately subdued and apprehended. The five vehicles were found loaded with illicit cigarettes,” said Mojapelo.

Police seized two BMWs, a Ford Territory, Nissan Pathfinder and an Audi A4. A total of 31 master boxes and 407 packs of illicit cigarettes with an estimated value of R426 640 were found.

The men are expected to appear in the Louis Trichardt Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

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