Duty-free imports scam sucks in Defence Ministry

judge_09Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
Two Chinese women were on Saturday sentenced to 10 months in jail for selling motor spares, on the open market, that had been imported duty-free by the Ministry of Defence.

It is not clear how the ministry’s consignments, whose value was not disclosed, ended up in Duan Denghong and Peiming Yang’s hands or for how long they had been involved in the scandal.

They were selling the motor spares to the public in their unregistered shop, Kynergy Motor Spares (Pvt) Ltd.

The duo, who were on a visitors’ permit, will be deported after serving their prison terms.

Denghong and Peiming appeared before magistrate Ms Jessy Kufa charged with contravening the Immigration Act that states that any immigrant “who contravenes or fails to comply with the conditions under which any exemption, permit, certificate or other document has been granted or issued to him under this Act, shall be found guilty of an offence”.

In passing the sentence, Ms Kufa said the pair’s offence was an economic crime, which called for a custodial sen- tence.

“The nature of their offence is an economic crime whereby the country is suffering in revenue. Nothing was being realised to the State in terms of tax. This was a well-planned offence,” she said.

In aggravation, Ms Francesca Mukumbiri called for a custodial sentence arguing that a fine or community service would trivialise the offence.

She applied for the forfeiture of the goods to the State.

“Your Worship, under normal circumstances this charge cannot be regarded as serious. But I will explain why I am saying they committed a serious offence. The accused persons entered into the country purporting to be on a visitors’ permit and according to the permit they were not supposed to do any work but they proceeded to form a company,” she said.

She added: “Surprisingly, the company is not registered. What is more frightening is that they went on to import their goods using the Ministry of Defence. As to how they did it, it is not clear at the moment. They evaded paying duty and tax.”

She said what the pair did amounted to economic sabotage to the country.

The court heard that on February 17, immigration officials received information that the pair was operating an unlicensed shop along Bishop Gaul Avenue and went on to conduct inves- tigations.

Evidence gathered confirmed that the pair was selling motor spares to the public imported by the Ministry of Defence.

The consignments which were found in their possession were addressed to the ministry housed at corner Kwame Nkrumah Avenue and Third Street.

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  • b c

    It is likely that that these women could only have accessed the wares thanks to some senior officials at the Ministry. The fact that the consignment is known to have originated from the Ministry is a starting point. The women must talk, disclosing their source. In addition, the original recipients and custodians of the consignments at the Ministry must explain how the wares found their way out of the Ministry’s control. Surely there must be some form of audit trail. The case seems pretty straightforward. But of course, it is not expected that any officials involved would let it go off so easily. Recently there were reports of smuggling through the capital’s airport, with army officials being implicated. Yet that story already seems to have died down with no further follow ups. This story is really only a spec in a pool of scandals. The powers that be would do everyone concerned a favor by acknowledging that the biggest cause of the country’s economic woes is largely a result of our own actions rather than entirely blaming sanctions, and taking necessary corrective action, never mind how undesirable to those involved, without fear or favor.

  • Cecil Roars

    Still interesting. Why would one report to immigration officials on issues of a shop not registered? Is that immigration’s work?

    • Aristotle Lupus

      It falls under the purview of immigration officials if the offence is in contravention of the immigration restrictions. Where would you suggest the matter was reported?

      What is probable is that the report was made by one with a vendetta- stoeln business who had already performed a company search.

      What is interesting is that sentence was passed on Saturday, without the option of a fine or suspended sentence.