Accusations of espionage, sabotage in tobacco industry

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association declined to identify implicated companies at this stage.


JOHANNESBURG - Small manufacturers in the tobacco industry have taken on big business, accusing multi-national cigarette companies of corporate espionage and sabotage, and claiming to have the evidence to prove it.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) says its lawyers have made contact with the authorities to lodge numerous criminal cases.

Fita has however declined to name the implicated companies.

The association says it's conducted its own investigation, which has exposed a network of spies which conduct covert operations to obtain information about its members.

It says private investigators have illegally trespassed on private property to plant bugging devices on behalf of multinationals.

Fita further accuses the big companies of manufacturing and passing off false information to law enforcement agencies to disrupt member business operations.

Fita's Sinen Mnguni is reluctant to elaborate on the claims.

"We will be releasing press releases in the next few weeks, for everyone to be informed as to what transpiring in the local tobacco industry."

He says their attorneys are preparing to lodge matters in the courts.


Meanwhile, the manufacturers say they collected enough evidence to lodge criminal cases against multinationals in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

The association says while its members are being spied on, false information is being fed to the authorities, which causes regular raids to be conducted on businesses.

Fita says multi-nationals and their private investigators are using influence over state officials to drive an unlawful agenda against the members.

It says its obtained sworn affidavits from former state officials and intelligence agents, as well as evidence to support their allegations.

Mnguni declined to divulge details of their case.

"We confirm that we have instituted various actions as sent out in the press statement. Beyond that, and until we have engaged the various state agencies, we cannot make much comment."

He says updates will be made available within the next few weeks.