Press release FITA 30 July 2019

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Press release – FITA – for immediate release

We note the renewed interest by the media in allegations of questionable practices by multinational tobacco companies, their employees and/or agents, the private security firms associated with them, officials and/or agents of law enforcement agencies, and government officials that first surfaced during the ructions at the South African Revenue Service in 2014.

We also note the continued denial and deflection of these allegations by the main protagonists in this entire debacle. The same wolves in sheep clothing who continue to mislead the public at large in relation to their involvement in the allegations of fraud, corruption, money-laundering, and many other transgressions in their quest to maintain their dominance of a market that has become more and more price conscious by the day.

In as far as any wrongful and/or unlawful and/or unethical conduct can be attributed to any of our members past and/or present during this tumultuous period in the tobacco industry, we wish to extend our unreserved apologies to inter alia the following groups:

  1. The South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) as an organisation;
  2. Any past and current employees of SARS that were affected.

These aforementioned events of our past are regrettable and SARS, as well as the country in general are poor for it.

In this regard we wish to point to the formation of our organization and its beginnings in 2012, which past has been well documented by the media and industry experts. During this turbulent period there were instances where there was infiltration and manipulation of some of our members by means of “agents of influence” with the sole intention of inter alia disrupting their business activities and pitting them against each other. There were also instances of peddling of false information by those same “agents of influence” about SARS and other law enforcement agencies with the sole purpose of leading our members down the wrong path in the hope that their acting on the said information would have dire consequences on their personal and/or business interests.

In and around November of 2016 our organization’s board, under new leadership, elected to relaunch FITA and invite all cigarette manufacturers within the Republic of South Africa to join a new FITA with different goals and objectives to our past incarnation, and with the intention of fixing any wrongs of the past whilst seeking full compliance with the tax laws of this country by our members. We were overwhelmed by the reception we received from a number of industry players and welcomed 5 new members to our organisation, which organization now stands at 8 members, the largest single cigarette manufacturer association in South Africa, representing about 90% of licensed cigarette manufacturers in the Republic.

We have, since our aforementioned renaissance, repeatedly called on law enforcement agencies to investigate the allegations which demonstrate a clear collusion between private multinationals, their private investigators and state officials to drive a clear agenda against inter alia some of our members and those tasked with policing the tobacco industry. These practices were not lawful, have had and will continue to have a negative impact on us as growing local businesses.

We continue to urge the state to investigate these complaints with the same vigour and allocation of resources as they have done in the past in their multiple inspections, raids and criminal investigations against some of our members past and present. Where the state fails to do so, or where prosecutions are not instituted, we have instructed our attorneys to obtain nolle prosequi certificates from the National Prosecuting Authority with the intention to consider instituting private prosecutions against those suspects.

Issued by the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association: 30 July 2019

For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za

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