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Illicit tobacco trade is crime catalyst

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Illicit trading in the tobacco sector creates a catalyst for other crimes, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Tuesday.

“Illegal trade in tobacco products is huge business which often spread to other crimes, like money laundering and drug dealing,” Phiyega said in a speech prepared for delivery at a conference in Cape Town.

“Due to this illicit trade, criminals use the informal markets they have built to distribute other counterfeit goods and committing other crimes.”

She highlighted the impact that illicit tobacco trading had on the economy and job creation.

“We understand how illicit trading undermines social and economic factors of society.”

The conference would address the issues facing the illicit tobacco market, such as the taxes in the tobacco industry, strategies to curb illegal tobacco trading and corruption within the industry. Phiyega said illicit trading created an environment for organised crime, which had a negative impact on the economy, the functioning of the state and the rule of law.

“Organised crime knows no borders, has no regard for the law and the criminals involved have massive resources and networks they have developed in pursuit of their objectives.”

She made reference to Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir, who faces a string of charges including kidnapping and attempted murder.

“What I mean by this is that when you have someone like Krejcir, who is able to pollute various spheres of government including the police, prosecutors, home affairs officials as well as use corrupt means through institutions such as banks, insurance companies and vehicle dealership to commit crimes, then we have a serious problem.”

“That is why it is important for us to fight any activity which may aid organised crime.”

Phiyega urged all entities, including police, government and members of the public, to work together to combat the illicit trade of tobacco.

“Combating the illicit trade in tobacco needs concerted collaborative approaches.

“The police and all relevant role players, including the community, have a big role to play in enabling and maintaining a safe and secure platform for trade in South Africa and the SADC region.” SAPA

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