The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in Free State has nabbed two men for alleged corruption.
The suspects, Intiyaz Vahora (49) and Furkan Farukbhai (25) from Kuruman and Lesotho respectively, and two others were approached by Hawks and South African Revenue Services Customs officials at the storage facility in Estoire, Bloemfontein. This is after information was received that there were units that were allegedly concealing cigarettes. The cigarettes were allegedly being stored for distribution.
After obtaining a search warrant, the law enforcement officers searched two suspected rented units – one of which was eventually found packed with a substantial number boxes containing cigarettes. The two units were locked to eliminate tampering.
“As the members were about to leave, the owner of the units allegedly approached the Hawks investigating officer to assist him to release the cigarette consignment. It was also established that the same suspect approached the manager of the storage facility to make the rental contract disappear”, said Hawks spokesperson Lynda Steyn.
“On Thursday, the Hawks officer met with the suspect and an accomplice and was paid a R70 00 gratification in order to release the cigarettes. The two, Vahora and Farukbhai were arrested on the spot”, Steyn further said.
An additional R100 000 in cash was also found inside their vehicle.
Suspects remanded in custody
The two appeared briefly in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Thursday, 11 June 2020 and were remanded in custody pending their next appearance on 18 June 2020.
Cigarette ban provoking crime syndicates
With the country currently on level 3 of the lockdown, the sale of all tobacco products remains prohibited, unwittingly making space for the cigarette selling in the black market.
The decision has sparked immense backlash including calls for Co-operative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be fired as many have accused her of being behind the ban.
The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association has approached the courts and wants the regulations governing the prohibition to be set aside.
Dlamini-Zuma’s legal counsel has argued that their client was well within her powers in enforcing the ban on cigarette sales and that the decision had to be made to avoid further burdening the public health system.
Judgement on the matter has since been reserved.
NDZ has primarily cited health reasons for the extension of the ban and referred to research which supports the decision.