First blood drawn in ‘Tobacco Wars’

Industry player Simon Rudland barely escaped an assassination attempt on Wednesday, while a Sars official was targeted at his place of employment in Durban.

The windows of a vehicle belonging to a former SA Revenue Service high-risk investigation unit member are smashed outside the Durban Sars office, 15 August 2019. Picture: Supplied

The windows of a vehicle belonging to a former SA Revenue Service high-risk investigation unit member are smashed outside the Durban Sars office, 15 August 2019. Picture: Supplied

First was Sars Wars, when the organisation was gutted by maladministration and an intelligence driven agenda by players in the tobacco industry; now it’s “tobacco wars” and blood has been spilt.

Simon Rudland, co-owner of the Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation and a member of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), yesterday barely escaped assassination outside Fita’s offices where he was due to attend a meeting.

Video footage shows Rudland pulling into Fita’s drive way in Orchards, Johannesburg, whereupon a vehicle stopped behind him and fired nine shots at Rudland – of which one hit him in the neck.

Rudland managed to drive himself to hospital.

Yesterday, a Sars official was targeted at his place of employment in Durban.

The Sars official is a former high-risk investigation unit member, which was disbanded after the “rogue unit” allegations.

According to a source, the eyewitness described a car stopping with two white males inside.

The passenger is believed to have alighted from his vehicle and proceeded to smash the four car door windows.

Nothing was stolen and it is unknown if the two incidents are connected.

If another senior industry player is to be believed, more are coming.

An impassioned letter by Yusuf Kajee, owner of Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturers, to his fellow members at Fita – seen by The Citizen – warned of a pending attack on himself and Paul de Robillard, former owner of cigarette manufacturer Rollex.

“Rumour in the gangster’s world is that there is a price tag on the owners of ATM,” Kajee wrote in his letter he was supposed to speak on at the Fita meeting.

“This I base on information received that they intended taking a hit at Paul [de Robillard] at the rugby game on 20th July. This information we received via our security team at our trucking company from an old friend of his from the force who asked that Paul not attend the rugby as they taking a pot at him. (sic)” and asserted he was supposed to be “dealt with” in September.

Kajee has not denied the contents of the letter.

Sars also has yet to respond to questions submitted by The Citizen over the attack on its official.

Kajee’s letter made numerous allegations against his fellow association members.

He states he will not be attending meetings anymore, he is “accused of selling at a certain price and upon investigation it comes out that the person that is selling the stock is not even a customer of ours and he cannot explain how he is in possession of the said stock”.

Kajee also alleged Carlinx director Gavin Lombard claimed Kajee ratted on him to Sars which resulted in R3.4 million being taken from Lombard’s account.

“Please could he show us this letter with my signature on it, so I can refund him what he has lost as I have done no such thing to him or any member of FITA,” Kajee said.

“When I’m traveling my phone is diverted to my PA and he was totally abusive in his speech to him, quote “tell that fucker to call me, he should not hide behind his PA” and the rest is history.”

However, Fita chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said yesterday the board remained united.

“There will always be issues when there are eight members of an association competing in the same market. There things we agree upon in terms of strategy,” Mnguni said.

He noted allegations were dealt with within the group and there was no animosity among its members.

Mngeni said allegations around the tobacco industry had been flying around for years, many of which had been detailed in a new book by former Sars group executive Johan van Loggerenberg, Tobacco Wars.

Van Loggerenberg wrote of six people killed in a gang war, hijackings, numerous attempted assassinations and shooting upon shooting upon shooting.

“The fact of the matter is the tobacco industry is as dirty and nasty as it is dangerous,” Van Loggerenberg said.

Mngeni said Rudland had been moved from intensive care and his condition was improving.

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