Rob Rose Editor: Financial Mail

Last week, you might have seen one of the more self-serving press conferences, in which the Tobacco Institute of SA (Tisa) railed against the vast volumes of illicit tobacco flooding through the market unchecked, thanks to the implosion at the SA Revenue Service (Sars). A study by Ipsos put the amount lost to the fiscus from illicit tobacco at R7bn a year. Francois van der Merwe, the bombastic chair of Tisa, described it as "an outrage", saying "there are known manufacturers, licensed by Sars, refusing to pay their taxes". What Van der Merwe didn’t cop to, obviously, was his own members’ culpability in robbing the fiscus blind of revenue owed from tobacco. Instead, he spoke of how Tisa used to work with Sars on cracking down on illicit tobacco until 2014 but "tobacco money played a role in state capture, so no wonder our relationship was terminated". Van der Merwe’s subtext: it is the illicit tobacco players, like Carnilinx (whose supremo, Adriano Mazzotti, funded Julius Malema) who...

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