'Allegations about cigarette smuggling nothing new'

SARS this week said BAT was involved in the smuggling of illicit cigarettes.

FILE: British American Tobacco (BAT) has been accused of being involved in the illegal cigarette trade. Picture: freeimages.com.

JOHANNESBURG - The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) says it's not the first time British American Tobacco (BAT) has been accused of being involved in the illegal cigarette trade.

Officials from the body briefed Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry this week where members asked questions about recent claims by former South African Revenue Service (SARS) spokesperson Adrian Lackay.

In a letter to Parliament, Lackay says British American Tobacco was involved in the smuggling of illicit cigarettes.

The institute's Francois van der Merwe says similar claims had surfaced in other countries before.

"Philip Morris has had these allegations in Europe, BAT has had it in Africa, but never found guilty. It's also a deliberate ploy by those who play these duels to always try and project the attention away from them by making allegations about legitimate companies."

Parliament also heard that the illicit trade has cost the country's economy R22 billion in the last five years.