Cigarettes smuggled from Zim seized in Namibia

TWO fuel tankers from Zimbabwe laden with smuggled cigarettes were seized at Rundu in Namibia on Wednesday night, a Namibian newspaper has reported.

New Era newspaper reported that customs officials seized both the trucks and their illicit cargo consisting of 1 130 boxes each containing 50 bars with 10 cigarette packets each with a street value of N$11.3 million

The paper said customs officials searched and found the large cigarette boxes that were evidently concealed in the fuel tankers headed for South Africa.

Both trucks have South African registration numbers and they are believed to have previously transported fuel to Zimbabwe.

Both drivers initially told inquisitive customs officials that the trucks were empty but a thorough search yielded the illicit cargo.

The paper said both tankers had secret compartments that were securely screwed and could not be easily detected. The police and customs officers had to unscrew the openings to see what was concealed inside.

Customs controller, Augustinus Philip Chiseke, told the paper that, “We have been following these trucks after our officials got suspicious. How does one drive through Namibia to South Africa from Zimbabwe if you are not loading anything? That is a long route,” said Chiseke.

Godwin Mwilima, the chief customs and excise officer for enforcement and operations, said that this was a combined effort by both the police and customs officials.

The first truck was stopped at Divundu, 200 km east of Rundu, while the second truck was stopped at a roadblock between the Kavango West and Kavango East regions.

“After being informed by our counterparts at the border that there were two suspicious gas tanker trucks headed our way, we started operations to get, detain and investigate them and this was a joint operation with the Namibian customs and excise,” said Detective Chief Inspector Chrispin Mubebo.

“We have the documents of the two drivers and we will interrogate them. We are busy with investigations and people engaged in these acts and other illegal acts should take this as a warning as we are aggressively busy with operations to get them and bring them to book,” said the detective chief inspector.

“The potential revenue loss, as a result of such smuggling, is still to be determined. We also need to determine the potential duty and taxes at stake,” said Mwilima.

The paper also said the truck drivers are yet to be charged and they could possibly appear in court on Friday.

Last year, Zimbabwean police busted two syndicates involved in the smuggling of cigarettes to South Africa.

In one of the incidents, a crack anti-smuggling team involving the police, army and revenue collection officials in September intercepted boxes of export-quality cigarettes at Beitbridge border post that were headed to South Africa.

The estimated value of the cigarettes was at more than US$760,000.

In another incident, the police intercepted on the same day another syndicate that was allegedly trying to smuggle 72 boxes of cigarettes valued at more than $ 57,000 to South Africa.

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