Car import scam rocks Zimra
LUXURY life and driving a state-of-the-art car is everybody’s wish, but in Zimbabwe this is coming at a huge cost to the country’s drying revenue flows, following illegal activities that have spurred authorities to act.
While some of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) employees and importers have enjoyed a fair share of advantage over the years through unscrupulous means of importing the cars, the net is closing in on a number of these individuals.
A document seen by the Daily News on Sunday compiled by Zimra chief loss control manager Tapiwa Manyika showed that the organisation was yet to recover $70 million through state-of-the-art cars that were imported into the country without paying the requisite duty.
Manyika said the opaque motor vehicle importation deals were heavily bleeding the country of potential revenue.
According to Manyika’s document, 485 motor vehicles were identified as having been fraudulently registered and 433 were last year published in the print media calling for owners to report to Zimra for verification of the clearance details.
“A total of 52 vehicles out of the 485 had data capturing errors that were verified and found to have been correctly cleared while 108 vehicles have been seized to date. There is huge impact on revenue collection. It is estimated that $70 000 000 will be recovered directly from this project. The project is expected to improve compliance which will be a major factor in the long term,” he said.
His document further showed that data capturing clerks were at the centre of the fraudulent car importation deals.
“Data capturing clerks have the highest impact on vehicles that are imported into the country without payment of duty. They are now a corruption hot spot,” Manyika said.
Recently, businessman and flamboyant socialite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure was ordered by the High Court to pay an additional US$58 000 duty for his R1,9 million Bentley Continental GT car imported from South Africa.
Zimra claimed Kadungure had undervalued the car, which saw him making an initial payment of US$81 450 as duty for the motor vehicle.
The order for him to pay the extra money came after Kadungure rushed to the court seeking to stop a move by Zimra to impound the car.
While making these follow-ups, Zimra has been taking a tough stance on its members involved in corruption activities and has a strong lifestyle audit programme for its workers, which has seen a number of them being brought to book over the issues.
Manyika said at least 176 of its officials were either suspended or dismissed over corruption allegations between 2016 and 2019.
In a detailed breakdown, Manyika’s document showed that in 2016, 52 officials were affected, while in 2017 there were 35, in 2018, 55 and in 2019 there were 34 cases.
Some of the officials have since been brought before the High Court to give a justification of the properties that they owned vis-à-vis their salaries.
In a recent application, prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dragged Desberia Mutara to the High Court for her to explain the source of her wealth.
In terms of the court papers, Mutara was employed by Zimra from October 2014 as a revenue trainee, based at Beitbridge Border Post, before she occupied her current position of revenue specialist.
Kasema told the court that Mutara cumulatively earned $57 936 between October 2014 and February last year. She, however, declared on her Zimra asset declaration of 2018 that she acquired a residential stand in Mainway Meadows, Waterfalls, Harare, valued at $16 000, a Toyota Rav 4 worth $10 000 and two Toyota Corollas valued at $8 000 each.
Kasema said the total value of her properties was $117 000, which doubled her salary.
“I concluded that Desberia Mutara’s wealth is ill-gotten and the sources of the funds are proceeds of crime liable to forfeiture,” Kasema said.
He said he came to this conclusion because: “The first respondent (Mutara) is an employee of Zimra who earned the above negligible salary incapable of being the source of her wealth, there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the first respondent is or has been involved in serious crime (whether in Zimbabwe or elsewhere), or a person connected with the first respondent is or has been, so involved.
Her being subjected to corruption such as bribery and smuggling of imports at Beitbridge Border Post where she was employed makes it more probable than not that her source of wealth was illicit enrichment”.
Kasema sought an order for the confiscation of the property in terms of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.
Meanwhile, another ex-Zimra official Kennedy Nyatoti was also taken to court after he failed to explain his source of wealth.
Nyatoti and his estranged wife Tatenda Chisadza failed to explain how they acquired a residential stand in Mabvazuva, Harare, a Honda CRV, a Honda Fit and a Nissan Skyline, leading to an application for the forfeiture of the property in August last year.
Nyatoti, however, recently filed an application for dismissal of the application for want of prosecution.
“First respondent (NPA) has failed to prosecute its matter within the confines of the rules of this court. Its application lacks merit to the extent that prospects of success were very low hence the neglecting and/or omitting to pursue its action. Applicant (Nyatoti) humbly prays that application under case number HC 7091/19 be dismissed …,” Nyatoti said.