On 11 November the South African Revenue Service (SARS) issued a Media Release which reads as follows:
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has upheld the seizure by SARS of the horse and trailer used for the transport of fuel unlawfully imported into South Africa. SARS has similarly seized the fuel and the court has also upheld SARS’ seizure in that regard.
The application, launched by Drontech Engineering (Pty) Ltd, was dismissed with costs of two counsel, one of whom is a senior counsel.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the court had sent a clear message to role players in the fuel industry that vehicles which were used to smuggle fuel into South Africa would be liable to forfeiture and may be seized.
“SARS will not tolerate any efforts to undermine the integrity of our tax and Customs administration through the illegal importation of goods across our borders where the applicable duties and levies are not paid. SARS will continue to act firmly and resolutely against illegal fuel importation, which compounds the challenge of illicit activities that are so pervasive in our country. This judgment reaffirms our determination to thwart this criminal conduct that undermines our economy.
“SARS will make it hard and costly for anyone that engages in such non-compliant behaviour by ensuring that they face the full might of the law. We are determined to work towards deepening a culture of compliance and tax morality in our young democracy,” Mr Kieswetter added.
“The revenue that SARS collects from imports and exports of goods is vital to the social and economic development of our country. It also enables the provision of public services such health, education and social grants to be provided to the poorest of the poor,” the SARS Commissioner said.
The truck and trailer were seized by SARS in March 2018. This was after SARS found that the fuel had been unlawfully imported into South Africa by means of the truck and trailer and that the truck and trailer had also been used on previous occasions to smuggle fuel from Mozambique into South Africa. In all instances, the fuel was declared and ostensibly destined for Zimbabwe, but was introduced into the South African market without the applicable duties and levies having been paid.
In conclusion, Commissioner Kieswetter re-emphasised that “any transporter engaged in the transport of fuel cross-border is only permitted to do so if they are licensed as a remover of goods in bond in terms of the Customs and Excise Act. If you are found without such a licence, that will be considered as a transgression of the law”.
Story by: Riaan de Lange