Security officials have intercepted cigarette contraband worth an estimated R230 000 that was being smuggled into South Africa through an illegal crossing point along the Limpopo River.
It is reported that the owners of the 85 boxes of Remmington Gold brand escaped after realising that they had been cornered by members of the national security task force along a footpath leading to the river.
They left behind the loot which was packed in sacks converted into temporary backpacks.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was not available for comment last night.
However, security officials close to the case said they were yet to make any arrests.
“The loot was intercepted by a security team which is part of those implementing an operation code-named; “No to cross border crimes”.
“We have since confiscated the 85 boxes of 50 bricks each of Remmington Gold in a forest near Limpopo River. It is believed that the consignment was destined for South Africa where there is a lucrative market for the commodity,” said a source.
The Herald understands that a box of cigarettes is sold for R2 700 on the local market and an estimated R6 000 on the South African market.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo recently said they were also conducting an operation codenamed “Thatha Zonke” (take everything) along the border and Limpopo province to curb crimes such as illegal migration, smuggling, armed robbery, illegal mining, and drug peddling among others.
The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River increased at the beginning of April last year 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, Remmington Gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.
More than 70 people have been arrested leading to the recovery of cigarettes worth millions of rands.
The temporary suspension of trade in tobacco on the formal markets in the neighbouring country as part of the Covid-19 protocols has seen smuggling syndicates pushing the commodity on the black market.
Those that 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.