What is more profitable than cocaine, heroin, marijuana or guns? Illegally trafficked cigarettes. For decades reputable tobacco companies have been complicit in cigarette smuggling. In a gripping Daily Maverick webinar, former SARS lawyer Telita Snyckers and Scorpio journalist Pauli van Wyk discussed the spies, lies and mega-profits of dirty tobacco.
The illicit trade in tobacco, especially cigarettes, costs South Africa's economy billions of rand annually through lost tax revenue. It involves the "supply, distribution and sale of smuggled genuine, counterfeit or cheap white tobacco products".
Counterfeit cigarettes are identical copies of branded products manufactured without the authorisation of the rightful owners. Cheap white cigarettes (or "illicit whites") are produced with the approval of a licensing authority in one country but smuggled and sold in another without duties being paid.
It is estimated that illicit cigarettes made up around 40% of the cigarette trade in South Africa and had shown "no sign of slowing down". Under the Covid-19 ban, all cigarette sales have been declared illegal.
Telita Snyckers, an independent illicit trade expert and former SA Revenue Service executive, says there are no angels in the mix of manufacturers that operate in SA.
In her book Dirty Tobacco: Spies, Lies and...