Members of the South African Revenue Service and the South African Police Service raided a warehouse in Vryburg, North West last week and confiscated millions of rands’ worth of illegally manufactured alcohol along with bitcoin mining equipment.
The warehouse, in the industrial area of Vryburg, was used to connect illegally cryptocurrency mining equipment to the town’s electrical power supply. It was also used to manufacture 14 617 bottles of duty-free liquor and popular local brands.
The bitcoin mining equipment is valued at around R10-million, while the alcohol is estimated at R3.8-million. The warehouse was well equipped with state-of-the-art bitcoin mining equipment to enable those involved to carry out their criminal activities. One foreign national was arrested and detained and will appear in court, and more arrests are expected.
Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter praised the ongoing cooperation between the tax agency and the police. He said the raid was part of Sars’s decision to act more vigilantly against unregistered taxpayers conducting business and to protect legitimate businesses.
“The abuse of duty-free labels to circumvent payable duties and other criminal undertakings found at this warehouse undermines our economy and will be confronted and met with the full might of the law,” Kieswetter said.
Clifton Groep, the mayor of the Naledi municipality under which Vryburg falls, told TechCentral that he has already instructed the town’s electrical manager to lodge charges to recover the money spent by bypassing the system.
“And as it is, we are one of those municipalities which owes Eskom a lot of money,“ he said. “Eskom has offered us a deal to pay off what we owe but where will we get that kind of money now?” he asked.
Naledi owes R672-million as of December 2022, and in 2019, after being placed in administration, agreed to pay Eskom R2-million/month to honour its debt.
Groep said police in Vryburg were visiting the area to follow up on information that counterfeit alcohol was being produced for overseas consumption on the premises when they stumbled on the bitcoin operation.
Hendrietta van Huyssteen, a ward councillor for the Democratic Alliance, said so far the municipal council has not been briefed in council about the incident but she knows a Chinese national has been detained and that further arrests are being investigated. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media