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SOS Rhino : In the News : Anybody looking for a lost rhino? Ask customs

Anybody looking for a lost rhino? Ask customs

  January 7, 2005

By Lynda Loxton
Business Report, Africa

Cape Town - Customs officials at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) not only have their hands full dealing with attempts to smuggle contraband into the country, but also with weird and wonderful cargoes, including ostriches and rhinos, arriving on unscheduled flights.

Spokesperson Adrian Lackay confirmed yesterday that, in terms of international trade protocols, contraband in the form of fake brand name sportswear and CDs was immediately confiscated and destroyed when detected by customs officials.

Second-hand clothing was confiscated and auctioned, usually to firms making underfelt for carpets.

All other undocumented and uncleared imports that were clearly being smuggled into the country were confiscated and warehoused, with their "owners" being given 60 days to lodge an appeal and clear all the necessary paperwork.

When this was not done, the goods were either sold or, as reported by finance minister Trevor Manuel this week, donated to good causes such as relief programmes for the tsunami victims in southeast Asia.

Manuel said that 12 twenty-foot containers of clothing and footwear confiscated from people trying to smuggle the goods into the country would be donated to the tsunami victims.

Transport minister Jeff Radebe indicated in a written answer to a question tabled in parliament recently that customs officials also had to deal with a wide variety of cargo arriving at Johannesburg International Airport on unscheduled flights.

He said the number of unscheduled flights had fluctuated from 518 in 2002 to 727 in 2003 and to 584 between January and October last year.

The planes come from all over the world, carrying everything from telecommunications equipment to ballot papers, "dangerous goods", goats, clothing, ostriches, cattle, cigarettes, T-shirts, live rhinos, spares of all kinds, fresh fish and books.

Lackay said airport officials always alerted Sars when these flights came in, and nothing was cleared until all the necessary paperwork had been done and the duties paid.

In the case of live wild and domesticated animals, state veterinarians had to declare them free of disease before they could even leave the aircraft.

If this could not be done, the airline involved had to return the animals to the country of origin.

Most of the unscheduled flights carrying animals come from elsewhere in Africa, mainly on MK Airlines, while the other unscheduled flights carrying general cargo and equipment come from as far afield as New York and Sao Paulo.

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