By Karishma Dipa
Johannesburg – A truck carrying a 15-ton load of tobacco worth an estimated street value of about R3 million ended up at an Ekurhuleni police station under false pretences.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the driver showed up at Brackendowns police station in Alberton in a panic, claiming he was being followed by a gang in a Mercedes-Benz C180 who were trying to hijack his cargo.
But when the alleged “hijackers” arrived at the same police station moments later claiming to be police informants on the hunt for the contraband, the driver’s version of events was questioned.
He insisted that the tobacco he was transporting from the Beit Bridge border post in Limpopo to Germiston was legal.
This prompted officers to visit the location in the Ekurhuleni suburb, but when they arrived there, no one was able to corroborate the driver’s version of what happened.
When members of the Joburg metro police department’s crime prevention unit as well as the SAPS crime intelligence unit arrived at the station later to verify if the occupants of the Mercedes-Benz were in fact informers, officers became increasingly suspicious.
This led to an investigation which showed that the entire shipment was contraband tobacco that was illegally destined for Singapore.
Police spokeswoman Sergeant Lindy Moloi told The Star that the driver, the owner of the truck as well as a crew member had since been arrested and charged with possession of illegal tobacco.
The SA Revenue Service will also charge the men with the diversion of exhibit goods, false entry into the country and tax evasion when they appear in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
The articulated truck and the 145 boxes, weighing about 110kg each, have been seized.
By late on Wednesday, police also found tobacco and a replica AK47 while sifting through the cargo.
“We will go through all the boxes and investigate further,” Maloi said.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said the men travelling in the Mercedes following the truck were actually the suspects, and when they realised that the driver was heading for a police station, they disappeared.
It seems the driver nearly managed to con the police.
Jun 16, 2015
A television host with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV has been given a suspended jail sentence and fined HK$5,500 (US$709) for cigarette smuggling.
Ma Bin, a former presenter with state broadcaster CCTV, admitted to two counts of smuggling-related offenses — possession of dutiable commodities and failure to declare them to customs authorities.
Principal Magistrate Bernadette Woo Huey-fang scolded Ma, saying that as a representative of China, he should be careful about his words and behavior and should set a good example, before sentencing him to a month’s imprisonment suspended for one year.
Ma, 42, was held by Hong Kong customs authorities on June 4 while trying to smuggle 405 cigarettes from mainland China.
The cigarettes were subject to a HK$772 tax, according to Apple Daily.
Ma hid them in a toy box and told customs officers he had no room for them in his luggage when the items were discovered, TVB News reported.
Ma’s lawyer, Chan Ka-wing, had argued Ma merely forgot to pay the tax because he used the customs green channel, which is for people who have nothing to declare.
Ekaterina Blinova — The Islamic State has found its own way of fighting tobacco addiction, severing the smoker’s head from his body.
Referring to strict Sharia norms, the Islamic State has imposed restrictions on tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use, labeling these acts as “sinful.” The ISIL Preaching Office reportedly qualified smoking as a “slow suicide,” adding that it results in both “financial and health damages.”
“Every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God,” the statement said.
13 Jan 2015
A shisha lounge has been slapped with a £14,000 fine after Brent Council caught the owner allowing smoking in an enclosed space.
Hassan El-Zein, 26, owner of Beirut Gardens in Cricklewood Broadway, was also found not displaying health and under-age warnings on tobacco packing and shisha pipes.
He failed to appear at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on January 6, but El-Zein was convicted and was given a total of £8,140 in fines, £120 victim surcharge and £2,185 in costs to the council.
The company Beirut Gardens Limited was also fined £2,660, £100 victim surcharge and £500 in cost to the council.
As El-Zein was not in court the magistrates made a collection order, meaning that if the he does not pay within 28 days, bailiffs may be sent to his home and business.
The magistrate said: “The defendant did not offer any explanation in his defence and the council officers gave clear evidence and proved beyond reasonable doubt that all the offences took place.”
The case was brought about by Brent Council who were carrying out a routine inspection at Beirut Gardens in April.
Councillor George Crane, Lead Member for Environment at Brent Council, said: “The high fine reflects the seriousness of the offence that has been committed.
“Smoking in enclosed places damages the health of staff and non-smoking customers and supplying tobacco products without health and age warnings is irresponsible and illegal.
“I hope this high fine will deter other businesses from committing similar offences.
“We want to create a safe borough for people that live or work in Brent and enforcing the law around the smoking ban is a part of that.”
26 November, 2014
Public health experts are optimistic that the mainland’s draft tobacco-control regulation has a good chance of curbing smoking if properly implemented.
The draft regulation, published by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, proposes banning smoking in all indoor public areas – and certain outdoor ones, near hospitals and kindergartens, for example.
It also calls for all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to be banned, while graphic and verbal health warnings must take up at least half the outside of a cigarette pack.
The draft details specific government agencies that will handle offences in different areas and lists penalties for offenders.
Individuals smoking in forbidden areas will be fined between 50 yuan (HK$63) and 500 yuan and businesses face fines of up to 30,000 yuan or even the revocation of their business licences.
Smoking will not be permitted to be shown in movies or television shows, and scenes of actors lighting up could also attract 30,000 yuan fines.
“We can safely say the draft has thoroughly adopted the most important articles of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” said Yang Jie, a researcher at the office of tobacco control at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
China ratified the convention in 2005 but has failed to introduce a complete smoking ban in indoor public areas, as required.
The issue now is whether the mainland will water down the rules in the final law, and how well it will be implemented.
The lobbying power of the state-owned tobacco monopoly is significant – tobacco sales contributed between 7 per cent and 10 per cent of the country’s tax revenue over the past decade.
“There are some articles in the law that the tobacco companies might oppose during the consultation period. We will send our opinions. We expect there will be some wrangling with the industry,” Yang said.
“As for implementation, the best chance of making it effective is to involve multiple government agencies.”
Smoking is common across the mainland, even in hospitals and government offices. The former health ministry issued its own ban on smoking in indoor public areas but it was poorly implemented. Several cities have introduced their own smoking bans, with some enforced by a dozen or more agencies while others are policed by only a few.
Yang researched 10 cities and found that regulations involving multiple agencies had the best chance of working as long as they had to report to a central office.
Shenzhen, for example, did not hand out a single fine under previous smoking rules, yet had issued more than 300,000 yuan in fines since March when a tougher regulation came into effect.
Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the think tank Research Centre for Health Development, said the law’s articles included details of implementation and accountability. “I am very optimistic,” he said. Both Yang and Wu agreed the State Council’s proposed regulations would help control tobacco use even without a more senior law passed by the NPC, which could take years.
Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs detected earlier this week a case involving suspected evasion of tobacco duty by a company holding an Import and Export Licence for Cigarettes. The company was suspected to have mixed duty-not-paid cigarettes with duty-paid ones for sale, intending to evade tobacco duty of about $4.1 million.
In the operation, Customs seized about 2.2 million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes, with a market value of about $4.7 million and a duty potential of about $4.1 million, from a company in Mong Kok and a store in Kwai Chung. Five men and two women aged between 25 and 54, including a company director, three company staff, two drivers and a conveyor, were arrested.
Customs has been monitoring the cigarette sales in the market.
It was found recently that there were discrepancies in the company’s stocks of duty-paid cigarettes and its business records. After several months’ follow-up investigations, it was suspected that someone had mixed the smuggled duty-not-paid cigarettes with duty-paid ones for sale in an attempt to evade tobacco duty.
Customs took enforcement action on August 25 to search the company’s office in Mong Kok and seized 600 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes from 60 carton boxes. Customs further seized 1.6 million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes from 131 carton boxes in a store at an industrial building in Kwai Chung.
The licensee of the company and six other persons involved in the case were arrested.
A Customs spokesman said today (August 28) that Customs has put in place an effective system on the control of import and export of cigarettes and tobacco products. A person who imports and exports cigarettes must possess a valid Import and Export Licence. A company holding an Import and Export Licence must also obtain the relevant permits from Customs prior to removal of cigarettes.
A licensee must comply with the relevant licensing and permit conditions. Customs will continue to closely monitor the market situation and strengthen intelligence gathering. Target enforcement action will be taken against any suspected illicit cigarette activities.
Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence.
The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in buying, selling or dealing with illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years. For cases of intentional evasion of duty, a magistrate may additionally impose a fine not exceeding 10 times the amount of duty payable on the dutiable goods.
Under the Crimes Ordinance, a person convicted of the offence at common law of conspiracy to defraud shall be liable to imprisonment for 14 years.
from the BBC news:
An Aberdeen newsagent is believed to have become the first in Scotland to be banned from selling tobacco products.
Aberdeen City Council applied for a tobacco retail banning order against Shriraj Gindha, trading as Tony’s Newsagent, in Victoria Road, Torry.
The local authority said he had repeatedly been caught selling tobacco products to under age customers.
The order, which was granted at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, will be in place for a year.
Aberdeen City Council trading standards team leader Graeme Paton said: “Despite numerous advisory visits, repeated warnings and fixed penalty notices, Mr Gindha continued to sell cigarettes to our 16-year-old test purchasing volunteers, never asking for proof of age or their date of birth.
“In light of repeated offending, we had little option but to seek an order from the court banning him from selling tobacco products.
“This was an extreme case and the majority of tobacco retailers in the city comply with the law.
“Those who do fail a test purchase visit rarely do so a second time.”
5 Feb 2014
It is an open secret that tobacco firms deliberately aid cigarette smuggling, for instance, by manufacturing excess cigarettes to flood the illicit market, primarily to keep their products at affordable pricing on the black market. That did not stop tobacco-funded campaigner, Richard Jolly, from trying to smoke the public regarding the illicit tobacco situation; in fact, he even accuses the Hong Kong police and customs of supposed inaction.
from Qi Luo of the Standard:
Cops accused in illicit tobacco poll
Seven in 10 people say it is easy for teenagers and children to get hold of illicit cigarettes, a poll shows.
Hong Kong United Against Illicit Tobacco, which is supported by Philip Morris Asia among others, also accused police of turning a blind eye to the sale of smuggled cigarettes in the territory.
The group commissioned market research firm Ipsos to survey 1,006 people last November and December.
It found 70 percent believed it was “fairly easy or very easy” for people under 18 to access illegal tobacco products.
About 64 percent agreed that black market cigarettes contributed to youth smoking due to lower prices and ease in buying without age verification.
Social worker Harris Har Man-kwong of Hong Kong Christian Service said illicit cigarettes are much cheaper, making it attractive for teenage smokers to find a way to buy them.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said in a TVB interview the number of Primary Four to Six students who smoke is increasing.
“We’re worried,” Chan said. “Most of current smokers started when they were teenagers.”
Chan said the Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Office will work with the Po Leung Kuk to fund non-smoking education at its kindergartens.
The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health urged the government to raise the tobacco tax up to 100 percent in the 2014-15 fiscal year, making the price of a cigarette pack HK$84.
It believes high tobacco duty will prevent youngsters from trying smoking for the first time.
The Ipsos survey, however, showed 90 percent believe the government should curb illicit cigarettes. Hong Kong United Against Illicit Tobacco convener and former policeman Robin Jolly said police have little incentive to crack down on the sale of smuggled cigarettes. He urged the government to effectively tackle the illicit cigarette trade before introducing any tobacco tax increase as it might inadvertently drive smokers to buy illegal cigarettes.
“We have to contain the problem before we consider raising tax and just making the problems bigger,” Jolly said.
A study released by Oxford Economics last year showed that more than 35 percent of cigarettes consumed in Hong Kong in 2012 were illicit. It estimated 1.8 billion illicit cigarettes, on which duty was not paid, cost the government HK$3.3 billion in lost tax revenue.
6 Feb 2014
from the SCMP (AFP):
Customs officers apprehend smugglers carrying cigarettes in cross-border transport vehicles
Hong Kong customs seized nearly four million cigarettes, worth over HK$10 million, in a two-week operation aimed at stifling smuggling in the territory, officials said on Saturday.
Authorities arrested seven people aged between 23 and 63 in the operation, which started in mid-December.
“Two cross-boundary vehicles conveying illicit cigarettes were seized and five illicit cigarette storage points were smashed,” a government statement released on Saturday said.
Customs said that almost 90 per cent of the seized cigarettes were found on two vehicles crossing the border from the mainland into the city.
Some of them were found in concealed spaces within containers carried by the vehicles.
“The total market value was estimated at HKD$10 million,” the statement said of the cigarettes.
“It was believed that the suspected illicit cigarette syndicate had been smashed,” the statement added.
A picture released by the government showed packs upon packs of the seized cigarettes being displayed with brands including Marlboro and Chinese manufactured Double Happiness, among others.
Smuggled cigarettes worth nearly HK$10 million were seized by customs in the last major operation in November.
Cigarette smuggling has been on the rise in Hong Kong. A total of about 38 million cigarettes were seized in the first 11 months of last year, compared to 27 million in the same period in 2012.
The territory is prone to cigarette smuggling due to its land border with the mainland.
Under Hong Kong laws, the maximum penalty for smuggling is a fine of HK$2 million and a seven-year jail term.
4 Jan 2013