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Cops arrest 8 people for E2.5 million cigarettes

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MBABANE - Six Mozambicans and two Swazis were arrested while two trucks carrying 350 boxes of cigarettes worth E2.5 million were detained.

The arrested group include Pedro Fransisco (34), Linoh Dinis Macuacua (20), Lorento Joachim Ferro (28), Lourindo Roselina Come (41) Agusto Thomas Mangate (22) and Don Carlos Said (35). Others include Bheki Ncongwane (33) from Kalanga together with Mayibongwe Ginindza (28) of Mfabantfu. The arrest of the eight comes at the wake of Acting Commissioner of police Isaac Magagula’s riot act he read last week of curbing the ever-increasing incidents of detention and arrests associated with the trade of cigarettes in the country.

Following such, Magagula dispatched an eight-member Task Team to tackle the investigations on the operation of the tobacco product traders in the country.

Highlighted This came after Customs and Excise Department Legal Advisor Sibongile Hlatshwayo was attacked by four armed men and reports carried by our sister publication Times Sunday highlighted that some faceless traders claimed responsibility of the attack. It has been gathered that on Thursday night, upon following a lead on the cigarettes trade the team caught up with the two trucks loaded with cigarettes in Nhlangano at Shiselweni forest at around 1 am. Information gathered is that the cigarettes were part of a consignment of 500 legally bonded boxes of Pacific cigarettes, which had been kept in a warehouse in Matsapha.

It has been further gathered that upon locating the truck in Nhlangano, members of the task team demanded documentation of the consignment, before the Customs Department went to the warehouse to count stock only to find that only 150 were inside the warehouse.

Detained Sources said the 350 detained boxes were part of the 500 that were legally stored in the warehouse. It has transpired that the cigarettes had documentation that was not with the truck occupants but was with Customs department, which is tasked to monitor the movement of the cigarettes. When reached for comment Commissioner of Customs Thembinkosi Mpanza confirmed the latest incident regarding the issue of the cigarettes.

Also reached for comment was police publicist Superintendent Vusi Masuku, who confirmed the detention of the cigarettes and the arrest of the eight. “They were charged with contravening section 80 of the Customs and Excise Act of 1971 by wrongfully and intentionally possessing illicit goods being the 350 boxes of Pacific cigarettes,” he said.

Remanded Masuku added that yesterday evening they appeared before Nhlangano Senior Magistrate Peter Simelane and were remanded back in custody until Monday. Prosecutor Nkosinathi Maseko made an application that the two trucks registered MLZ 75-20 and MLZ 62-40 together with a Polo sedan be in police custody pending the finalisation of the matter

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