Wednesday, January 27, 2021

BATSA concerned by surge in cigarettes armed robberies

British American Tobacco SA (BATSA) says it is concerned about an increase in armed robberies of its products and the rise of organised crime in the illicit trade of cigarettes.

BATSA General Manager, Johnny Moloto, says they have observed a spike in robberies since the lifting of the lockdown ban on tobacco sales last year.

"This alarming increase in criminals targeting our products should be of major concern to the authorities.

“In Q1 2020, armed robbers stole 1,195 cartons per month (239,000 individual cigarettes) of our products. We, obviously, had no robberies during the tobacco sales ban as we were not transporting products. When the ban was lifted, on a monthly average 2,845 cartons of cigarettes (569,000 individual cigarettes) were stolen during armed attacks on our distribution vehicles. And this, although we have increased security measures.’’ He added.

Moloto says in February 2020, the last full month before the lockdown ban, there were four robberies.

"In September, the first full month after the ban was lifted, there were 12, a four-fold increase.’’

‘’The lockdown sales ban led to an explosion in the illicit trade and the increased involvement of organised crime syndicates,” he said.

Moloto is concerned that the ban also normalised the purchase of illicit cigarettes by South Africa’s 11 million smokers.

“Since the ban, we have seen a dramatic growth in the sale of illicit cigarettes in mainstream outlets, which can also be attributed to the economic hardship being suffered by South Africans," adds Moloto.

He says the police have been notified of all incidents.

‘’As is required by law in South Africa, all robberies against BATSA are reported to SAPS with the aim of achieving arrests of criminals targeting our business, as well as recovering stock and preventing it from entering the illicit supply chain.’’

Moloto has called for cigarette manufacturers to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

 

Done By: Mitchum George

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