The #TakeBackTheTax campaign against illegal cigarettes has condemned the R50-million defamation lawsuits launched against global research house Ipsos and #TakeBackTheTax spokesperson and prominent anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee by Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation (GLTC).
GLTC is a prominent player in the South African illegal cigarette market.
The legal action comes after a July 2018 Ipsos study revealed that South Africa is losing over R8 billion per year in evaded taxes due to the exponential growth in illegal cigarettes. The study was carried out in order to quantify the nature and extent of the illegal cigarette trade in the country.
The Ipsos research showed that almost 80% of all GLTC’s brands in the market were selling for below the minimum allowed price of R17.85 per pack – which only means one thing; they are not paying taxes – effectively breaking the law and robbing South Africa of billions of Rands in lost taxes.
Ipsos also revealed that GLTC’s RG brand was the biggest brand in the market, selling for an average price of just R10 per pack, significantly below the minimum tax owed.
In response to an illegal cigarette crisis threatening to spiral out of control, the #TakeBackTheTax campaign was launched last year.
The campaign is aimed at encouraging government to act urgently in addressing the illegal trade.
Yusuf Abramjee joined the campaign in September 2018 as its official spokesperson.
In a style arguably reminiscent of American ‘SLAPP’ suits, where big companies attempt to silence and intimidate activists by levelling costly defamation suits against them, GLTC this year issued summonses to both Ipsos and Abramjee, for R50-million defamation claims.
#TakeBackTheTax stands firmly behind the IPSOS research and its spokesperson.
Abramjee himself remains firmly committed to fighting the scourge and impact of the illegal cigarette trade.
The Ipsos study is the most robust scientific analysis of the multi-billion-rand illegal cigarette market ever carried out in South Africa. It simply cannot be ignored.
Abramjee says as a result of this legal action #TakeBackTheTax now looks forward to a transparent and robust legal process that will compel manufacturers dealing in illegal cigarettes like Gold Leaf Tobacco to finally answer to the law.
“These defamation suits are simply a ruse to deflect from the real crisis in the sector and to intimidate activists, like me, into silence” said Abramjee.
Abramjee also went on to say: “This legal action conversely also offers a real and unique opportunity to transparently and openly ventilate and thoroughly test the facts. We look forward to this process.”
“It is in the public interest for this case to be tried and ruled upon and we will take all necessary steps to ensure that it gets its hearing as swiftly as possible,” added Abramjee.