THE National Security Task Force has recovered a contraband of 40 boxes of cigarettes worth R3,4 million that was being smuggled into South Africa via the Limpopo River at Lamidzi area near Tshabili Village.

It is understood that the smugglers took to their heels last Tuesday after being cornered by a security team on border patrols.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said further investigations were underway.

He said the police were not relenting on their quest to minimise cases of smuggling at all the country’s borders.

“We are not going back on our efforts to tackle cases of smuggling across the country. As the police, we are grateful for the cooperation we continue to get from members of the public who continue supplying us with information that is useful in combating crime.”

He said the contraband was intercepted at about 6pm last Tuesday by members of the ZRP and the Zimbabwe National Army who are deployed on operation code named “No to Cross Border Crimes”.

Asst Comm Nyathi said the team was on patrol when they intercepted a group of men carrying 40 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes intending to smuggle them into South Africa. Upon seeing the team, he said, the smugglers fled from the scene abandoning their contraband.

“The patrol team managed to recover 40 boxes of Remington Gold Blue cigarettes worth R3 450 500. The recovered contraband has since been taken to Beitbridge Urban Police Station for further management,” he said.

The incident comes a few weeks following the arrest of a 37-year-old Zimbabwean man in Musina, South Africa after he was found with an assortment of smuggled cigarettes worth R1,6 million.

The man was also found in possession of a stolen vehicle which he was using to transport his contraband.

He was busted by the neighbouring country’s organised crime police (Hawks) while preparing to dispatch the contraband at his “warehouse” in Musina.

The smuggling of cigarettes from Zimbabwe into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River relatively increased at the beginning of April last year prompting security from both countries to intensify anti-smuggling initiatives.

It is understood that 30 percent of cigarettes in South Africa are from Zimbabwe including Pacific, Remington Gold, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.

More than 70 people have been arrested leading to the recovery of cigarettes worth millions of Rand.

The temporary suspension of trade in tobacco on the formal markets in the neighboring country as part of the Covid-19 protocols has seen smuggling syndicates pushing the commodity on the black market.

Those that illegally transport the commodity across borders are paid between R100 and R300 per box and in most cases, this is done under the cover of darkness.