FITA Press Release 13 September 2021

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Press release – FITA – for immediate release

FITA Press Release

Rumblings of questionable practices by multinational cigarette manufacturers and private security firms associated with them first came to the fore during the ructions at the South African Revenue Service in 2014. We have in the past brought these allegations to the attention of the public.

These include but are not limited to the following practices:

  • Private investigators illegally entering private premises and planting surreptitious listening devices and bugging phones.
  • Private investigators operating an illegal covert network of spies throughout South Africa who in turn were paid to spy on our members.
  • The illegal infiltration and manipulation of FITA, which included the bugging of our board room and board meetings.
  • The setting up of an illegal spy network in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
  • Private investigators illegally entering the premises of our members and planting tracking devices on their vehicles.
  • Illegal accessing of private and confidential information only privy to FITA members in exchange for a fee. These matters have already been registered with law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom.
  • Money-laundering practices, including the payment of persons spying on us by way of cash passports and debit cards in fictitious or false names.
  • Infiltration and manipulation of some of our members by means of “agents of influence” with the sole intention of disrupting their business activities and pitting them against each other.
  • Instances where commercial competitors used their access to and influence over state officials to instigate and direct actions against our members.
  • Instances where information obtained from our members by way of state actions ended up in the hands of their commercial competitors.
  • Conducting raids against some of our members under the pretext of one statutory provision, whereas the true intent was to achieve an entirely different outcome to their detriment.
  • Preferential treatment obtained by some multinationals including attendance of senior government officials at their conferences and purporting to act on behalf of the entire local tobacco industry stakeholders.
  • The escorting of deliveries of the now-defunct TISA’s members by members of law enforcement agencies whereas our members rightfully paid for their own security.

We have had sight of sworn to and draft affidavits obtained from former state officials, intelligence agents and persons who were involved in these practices in respect of the above. These clearly demonstrate that there was clear collusion between the multinationals, their private investigators, and state officials to drive a clear agenda against some of our members. These practices were not lawful, have had, and will continue to have a negative impact on our members as growing local businesses.

In late 2016 we lodged a criminal complaint against inter alia British American Tobacco South Africa (“BATSA”) and its employees and/or agents, British American Tobacco PLC and its employees and/or agents, Forensic Security Services and its employees and/or agents, certain employees and/or agents of the State Security Agency, certain employees and/or agents of Crime Intelligence, and certain employees and/or agents of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation. BATSA soon thereafter instructed attorneys Norton Rose Fulbright to conduct investigations on their behalf in respect of allegations which implicated BATSA and its agents and/or service providers of conduct including but not limited to corruption, espionage, money-laundering, tax evasion, unfair trade practices, and undue influence over law enforcement and government officials all in the name of maintaining their dominance of the market. It has been alleged that the primary targets of the aforementioned practices ascribed to BATSA were its commercial competitors, a large portion of whom were and/or are still members of FITA. To date we are yet to receive the outcome of that investigation despite repeated requests from our offices for the release of same.

With these allegations resurfacing we expect of 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. This evidence has been available for some years now but this issue seems to have been swept under the carpet time and time again. One has to ask the question of who is being protected here and why.

Where the state fails to investigate, or where prosecutions are not instituted, we will look at instructing our attorneys to obtain nolle prosequi certificates from the National Prosecuting Authority with the intention to consider instituting private prosecutions against those implicated. We have also instructed our attorneys to advise us on any civil proceedings we may institute.

We also believe it incumbent on the state to put measures in place to level the playing fields in the tobacco industry to give us as local employers and contributors to the economy a competitive and level playing field.

Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni 13 September 2021

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

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