With the ban on tobacco products continuing and smugglers proceeding with their modus operandi to feed the local market with illegal cigarettes, police regularly report major successes in related crimes.
This was proven once again when police recovered illicit cigarettes worth more than R1 million during a joint operation conducted in the Musina policing area on Friday. Provincial Police Communications Head, Brig Motlafela Mojapelo indicated that information was received about suspects transporting illegal cigarettes and members of the police, South African National Defence Force and provincial traffic officers conducted a roadblock on the Tshipise road.
Mojapelo remarked that the four vehicles they were travelling in were intercepted at different intervals at the roadblock and the drivers caused for high drama as they tried to evade arrest by speeding off.
One driver failed to stop, he sped off and turned onto a nearby gravel road. Officers gave chase to the point where the driver lost control and collided with a fence. The occupants of the vehicles fled into the bush, according to Mojapelo.
He added that another driver also failed to stop and subsequently jumped from the vehicle with an occupant and fled into the bush.
The vehicle ultimately struck a pole and came to a standstill.
While approaching the roadblock the driver of a sedan made a U-turn but was spotted by authorities who gave chase. The vehicle was abandoned as suspects fled.
The fourth vehicle was later found abandoned, according to Mojapelo.
A huge stash of cigarettes were discovered and confiscated from three of the vehicles. The value of the cigarettes is estimated at R1,4 million. The fourth vehicle, a Chrysler SUV did not carry any cigarettes but is suspected to be stolen, according to Mojapelo.
The origin and destination of the recovered cigarettes is still being investigated.
Provincial Police Commissioner Lt Genl Nneke Ledwaba commended the members for their vigilance and commitment which resulted in the confiscation of the cigarettes and vehicles.
Anyone with information that can lead to the arrest of the suspects is requested to contact Col Mamuhoyi at 082 414 6683 or report to the nearest police station.
Story: RC MYBURGH