The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association says it is “unsurprised” by BATSA’s deflection following its implication in an alleged organised crime syndicate that was fuelling corruption and cigarette smuggling in Mali.
Last week, the organised crime and corruption reporting project OCCRP revealed British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands allegedly dominated the global “Grey Market”. Together, they alleged Jihadist ties fuelling the pockets of terrorists in the African country.
This revelation, however, sparked calls from FITA and the South African Tobacco Organisation (SATO), who called for an investigation into the illegal trade in cigarettes on the continent.
Meanwhile BATSA on Monday said that it supports a commission of inquiry into the illegal cigarette trade in South Africa.
According to BATSA general manager Johnny Moloto, both FITA and SATO represent brands including Remington Gold, “that are likely to found on sale illegally in the country.”
“The FITA/SATO coalition say they want an investigation. So, let’s have one,” said Moloto.
“This is an issue of utmost national importance that is taking huge sums out of the pockets of South Africans and putting it in to the pockets of criminals every single day. It deserves a fully resourced investigation or Commission of Inquiry with real powers.”
‘Unsurprising and calculated’
In a response to queries brought forward by Food For Mzansi, FITA chairperson, Sinenhlanla Mnguni says that it was “unsurprising and calculated” that BATSA would deflect attention from serious allegations levied against it.
Should BATSA bring forward evidence of the associations implication in cigarette smuggling rings, Mnguni said “they are more than welcome to approach law enforcement agencies.”
He added, “To simply brush-off a report implicating your organisation in smuggling, corruption, the indirect funding of terrorism and the drug trade smacks of arrogance of the highest degree.
Mnguni further questioned why BATSA had gone through great lengths to avoid accountability in the matter. “Perhaps they can share the findings of that independent investigation given their eagerness to play open cards.
“While the multinational feels it can call the shots when it comes to some given their financial muscle, we will never dance to their tune.
Mnguni maintains, “Our members are all compliant with the tax laws of this country and have at all times been co-operative with SARS in as far its efforts in implementing measures to curb non-compliance in the industry along the value chain.
“We continue to urge them to find their conscience and account for the allegations levelled against them much in the same manner FITA members have accounted for past transgressions.”