Hawks bust three police officers and six civilians for dealing in illegal cigarettes

Pretoria – This morning, Friday, 27 March 2015, members of the Hawks assisted by members of the Crime Intelligence Unit, the Durban National Intervention Unit and the Asset Forfeiture Unit, arrested nine suspects, including three police officers (three detective constables) and six civilians at Emanguzi in northern KwaZulu-Natal bordering Mozambique, for their alleged involvement in distributing illegal cigarettes. Three other suspects are still at large. However, they will be arrested soon. The operation started at 02:00 this morning after the Hawks had registered a project in 2013, following rampant allegations of corruption by police officers colluding with members of the community. During the operation, undercover agents bought cigarettes from the identified targets and they paid between R2 000,00 and R3 000,00 every time to escort the illegal cigarettes out of Emanguzi. The corrupt police officials used police vehicles and their private vehicles to escort the illegal cigarettes at a fee. They would also demand bribes from people smuggling illegal cigarettes into the country. After receiving the bribes, instead of arresting the suspects, the police escorted the vehicle carrying the illicit cigarettes, ensuring that the suspects evaded arrest by other law-enforcement officers. A large number of seized cigarettes disappeared between the time of the arrest and when the suspects had to appear in the local Magistrate’s Court.

The Acting Head of the DPCI, Major General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, said the arrests will send out a strong message to all police officials that corrupt elements in the SAPS will not be tolerated. “It is something I particularly appreciate, because it means that something drastic is being done about the ‘bad apples’. It also indicates that the good police officials are not tolerating any illegal behaviour from their corrupt colleagues who do damage to the good reputation of the SAPS,” he said. The suspects will appear in the Emanguzi Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 30 March 2015, facing charges of corruption, illegal dealing in illicit cigarettes and contravention of the Tobacco Products Control Act, 1993 (Act No 83 of 1993).