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SA Police seize consignment of R10m cigarettes smuggled from Zimbabwe

A South African Revenue Services (SARS) customs official has been arrested along with two others for trying to secure the release of a consignment of cigarettes worth nearly R10 million alleged to have been smuggled through Beitbridge Border Post.

The official Freddy Lentsoane (36) and two others Christian Laurens Bezuidenhout (19) and Christian Phillipus Bezuidenhout (64) have been jointly charged for corruption and alleged defeating the ends of justice.

The Bezuidenhouts were both released on R2 000 bail pending trial at the Tshilwavhusiku Magistrate Court while Lentsoane was denied bail and remanded in custody to December 14. The trio was arrested after storming the Makhado Police Station, some 98km from Zimbabwe’s border with South Africa on December 3.

Limpopo police spokesperson, Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said the trio tried to force the release of a truck with smuggled cigarettes.

“Makhado police were performing patrol duties when they noticed a truck driving at a high speed along the N1 road and tried to stop it,” he said.

“The driver sped off and members called back-up from Tshilwavhusiku Saps. In the process, the police received information from the Tracking Company about a hijacked truck matching the same description, heading towards Tshilwavhusiku area.”

Col Ngoepe said the truck was later found abandoned at the Magau area. He said a search of the vehicle was then done leading to the discovery of boxes of illicit cigarettes with an estimated street value of R9 903 474, 00, which were later confiscated.

He said after that, the police then initiated investigations and a manhunt for the suspects involved.

“Later in the afternoon, the SARS Customs official came to Makhado police station alleging that he was on duty and the truck had been cleared at the Beit-Bridge Border gate.

“The other suspects also came in and informed the police that they are the owners of the truck. It was also revealed that the truck was never hijacked. The suspects were apprehended on the spot,” said Col Ngoepe.

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