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SARS officials thwart bribery attempts

Two attempts to bribe SARS officials to release goods stopped at border posts this week were thwarted and the suspects arrested‚ the South African Revenue Service has revealed.

It said that on Tuesday members of the SARS Tactical Intervention Unit (TIU) and police in North-West had arrested a clearing agent based in Benoni for offering a bribe of R100 000 to a TIU officer.

The cash was covered by a plastic bag containing chips which the suspect tried to hand to the officer.

“This followed an incident in which a truck loaded with an electrical transformer valued at R9 595 194 was stopped trying to leave SA at the Kopfontein border post on Friday 2 October. There were discrepancies in the entries and Customs officers sent the case for further investigation to the TIU‚” SARS spokesman Luther Lebelo said.

“The TIU suspected it may be a ghost export transaction valued R28 302 068 and when the investigating officer contacted the clearing agent‚ he was offered a bribe.”

“Ghost exports” were becoming increasingly prevalent in the Customs environment‚ with SARS devoting particular attention to investigating it‚ Lebelo added.

In another incident‚ on Sunday‚ a vigilant Customs officer at Groblersbridge had discovered illicit goods valued at around R5 million hidden in two containers filled with molasses from Zambia.

“Altogether 11 021 cartons of assorted brands of cigarettes with the total street value of R2 292 386‚ plus 40 512 tubes of facial creams with a street value of R2 025 600 and 8 000 contraceptive tablets with a street value of R680 000 were found inside two containers which were on a truck travelling through Botswana from Zambia.

“The boxes of cigarettes‚ facial creams and contraceptives were packed on top of the molasses and were wrapped in plastic bags.

“The driver offered a R10 000 bribe to the customs officer to get free passage to SA. However‚ the SAPS was informed and the driver was arrested. The truck was detained and the illicit goods were seized‚” Lebelo said.

Other notable recent busts:

• On October 7‚ members of the Customs Detector Dog Unit at Lebombo discovered a number of illicit and suspected counterfeit goods hidden in a taxi and trailer entering South Africa. The kombi was carrying second-hand clothing‚ shoes‚ sneakers‚ liquor‚ cigarettes‚ face creams‚ a rifle silencer and ammunition rounds valued at over R60 000.

• On October 5‚ a Customs officer at the ORTIA mail centre discovered 20kg of generic Viagra tablets valued at R4.4 million. The consignment had come from Hong Kong and was destined for Cape Town. The goods were detained and handed over to Port Health.

• Also on October 5‚ a truck which was supposedly empty was stopped for inspection at Lebombo border post. On inspection‚ Customs officials found boxes wrapped in plastic bags containing suspected counterfeit takkies (sneakers) valued at R3 830 400. The goods were confiscated.

Source: RDM News Wire

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