ūüĒí There are NO angels in tobacco industry: just bag snatchers, robbers – Van Loggerenberg

Growing up, I never thought I’d be a smoker. My parents were smokers, one of my grandmothers died of a smoking-related cancer and I hated the haze of passive smoke that hovered throughout our home. But, at Rhodes University, I found myself sampling free Benson & Hedges at various university-hosted parties. Before I knew it, I was hooked. Big tobacco might no longer be able to play dirty games to get young people addicted to their products, but they still play dirty in other ways. Just ask Johann van Loggerenberg who has suffered at the hands of sinister operators in a cut-throat industry. Van Loggerenberg, a former South African Revenue Service corruption buster, spoke to Alec Hogg about his latest book, Tobacco Wars. РJackie Cameron

Do the big tobacco corporations need to be investigated for criminal activity? Tobacco Wars author Johann van Loggerenberg says draw your own conclusions.

He is not at liberty to discuss information that isn‚Äôt in the public domain but says: every organisation should be squeezed – ‚Äúbig, medium and small and everyone down the value chain‚ÄĚ.

In his time as an anti-corruption buster at the South African Revenue Service, his approach was ‚Äúto squeeze on all parts of the waterbed, the waterbed would include¬†big, medium, small¬†and¬†everybody¬†down¬†the¬†value¬†chain. The¬†one¬†multinational¬†that¬†did¬†publicly¬†state¬†and¬†confirm¬†that¬†they were undergoing¬†a¬†full¬†scale¬†audit¬†by¬†the¬†Revenue¬†Service¬†was British¬†American¬†Tobacco¬†South¬†Africa. In¬†the¬†media¬†in¬†April¬†2014. So¬†they confirmed¬†that”.

And, he continued, “that’s¬†about¬†as¬†much¬†as¬†I¬†can¬†say to you publicly – just¬†join¬†the¬†dots¬†from¬†that¬†side”.

Van Loggerenberg’s new book, the third in a series linked to corruption in South Africa, has rattled cages.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association on Wednesday tendered an apology to the South African Revenue Service and any of its employees who may have been harmed by FITA’s members, reports Fin24. It said the association was building a “new relationship” with the tax agency. Sinen Mnguni, FITA’s chairperson, told Fin24 that this apology would include one to¬† Van Loggerenberg.

In Tobacco Wars, Van Loggerenberg delves into rivalries in the SA tobacco industry. Van Loggerenberg resigned from SARS in February 2015.

“In the past, FITA’s relationship with SARS was strained, and that strained attitude from our members included how we viewed anyone – including Van Loggerenberg – who tried to investigate and police the tobacco industry. But since I have taken over a few years ago, we have built up a co-operative relationship,” Mnguni is reported as saying.

“The tobacco war is for market share and the bigger players have used their influence to target our members. We, on the other hand, never had relationships with government. I am now trying to engage with the relevant departments,” says Mnguni.

“We deny that we are part of illicit tobacco trade. We are a legitimate association with tax-paying members who create jobs.”

There are two main industry bodies in the South African tobacco industry, says Fin24. TISA represents international players British American Tobacco (BAT), Phillip Morris International, Limpopo Tobacco Processors, and others. FITA, meanwhile, represents manufacturers Carnilinx, Gold Leaf Tobacco and Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing, among others.

In the interview with Alec Hogg, Van Loggerenberg contextualises Tobacco Wars.

“The¬†first¬†book¬†was¬†the¬†story¬†of¬†a¬†small¬†investigative¬†unit¬†within¬†the¬†South¬†African¬†Revenue¬†Service¬†that¬†had¬†been¬†tarnished¬†through¬†the¬†media¬†for several¬†years, since¬†2014, and¬†it¬†was¬†basically¬†the¬†only¬†platform¬†to¬†get¬†the¬†truth¬†out¬†there.

So I wrote that book together with a former colleague of mine Adrian Lackay. He was the head of communications at the institution at the time.

The¬†second¬†book¬†was¬†was¬†more¬†a¬†book¬†sort¬†of¬†like¬†a¬†trip¬†down¬†memory¬†lane¬†covering¬†key¬†investigative¬†cases¬†and¬†prosecutions¬†in¬†the period 1998 to 2014¬†when¬†the Revenue¬†Service was¬†operating¬†at¬†its¬†at¬†its¬†height. So¬†more¬†short¬†stories¬†with¬†with¬†perhaps¬†a¬†few¬†bigger¬†stories a¬†thread in¬†between them.”

This third¬†book on tobacco¬†wars “is a little¬†bit¬†different¬†in¬†that¬†I’m¬†writing¬†it¬†as¬†a complete¬†outsider¬†and¬†that¬†they¬†are¬†touch¬†points¬†in respect of the Revenue Service” and¬†other¬†law¬†enforcement¬†agencies¬†and¬†intelligence¬†services¬†but¬†only to¬†the¬†extent¬†that it overlaps¬†with¬†why¬†I¬†make¬†the case¬†that¬†certain¬†people¬†initially¬†from¬†the¬†tobacco¬†industry¬†attacked¬†the¬†South¬†African¬†Revenue¬†Service¬†and¬†how¬†that¬†initial¬†attack¬†was¬†then capitalised¬†upon¬†by¬†various¬†groupings¬†and¬†various¬†people¬†for¬†nefarious¬†purposes.¬†And¬†I¬†think¬†the¬†reader¬†can¬†connect¬†the¬†dots.¬†I¬†don’t¬†make allegations.¬†I¬†put¬†the¬†facts,” he says.

I make the point in the book that there are no angels in the tobacco industry whatsoever. So nobody must misunderstand me on that.

“I¬†use¬†the¬†analogy¬†of¬†you¬†know; you¬†get¬†you¬†get¬†the¬†bag¬†snatchers¬†and¬†the muggers¬†and¬†then¬†you¬†get¬†the¬†bank¬†robbers¬†and to¬†effectively combat¬†those crimes, you need¬†to¬†focus¬†on¬†the¬†muggers, the¬†bag¬†snatchers¬†and¬†the¬†bank robbers.”

The so-called “agents¬†of¬†influence” not¬†only “serve their masters¬†that¬†were¬†multinational tobacco¬†manufacturers¬†but¬†they¬†were¬†very, very close, closely intertwined¬†with¬†law¬†enforcement¬†and intelligence operatives,” he adds.