The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is capacitating its intelligence management unit and leveraging on technology and data matching to fish out fuel smugglers who are prejudicing the country of thousands of dollars in potential import revenue.
This comes as three fuel tankers were intercepted in Chirundu between July 17 and July 23 on their way to Zambia, full of water instead of fuel, after offloading the fuel illegally in Zimbabwe.
The fuel tankers had a combined 130 656 litres of diesel and petrol.
If the tankers had not been intercepted, the State could have been prejudiced of about US$54 687,28 in duty for the 84 856 litres of diesel and 45 800 of petrol.
Under the present import protocols, petrol pays excise duty of 49 US cents per litre, while diesel is charged 38 US cents per litre.
Two of the truck drivers have since been arrested and appeared in court over the matter.
Zimra is now processing the suspension of the bond for the clearing agent involved in the fuel scam.
Zimra spokesperson Mr Francis Chimanda said they were descending heavily on all rent-seeking activities aimed to prejudicing the State.
“The three tankers that had declared fuel at Forbes Border Post en-route to Zambia were intercepted at Chirundu One-Stop Border Post all loaded with water instead of fuel as per the declarations made at Forbes Border Post,” he said.
“The tankers had respectively declared 44 924 litres of diesel, 39 932 litres of diesel and 45 800 litres of petrol destined for Zambia. However, it was discovered after physical inspections that they were loaded with water.” Two drivers of the fuel tankers, Godfrey Nyamukondiwa and Joseph Guveya, appeared in court this Monday and were each released on $30 000 bail.
They will be back in court on August 24.
Mr Chimanda said the third driver evaded arrest during the physical inspections and remains at large.
He added that intelligence at hand suggests that there could have been connivance between transporters and their drivers as well as some unscrupulous agents.
“The transit fuel does not exit Zimbabwe and is consumed locally against customs regulations,” said Mr Chimanda.
“The smugglers offload and sell the fuel in Zimbabwe. Thereafter they load the trucks with water and proceed to Chirundu for the acquittal process.”
In most cases, once the trucks are cleared at Chirundu, they smugglers just enter Zambia and drain the water and buy cheaper fuel for delivery to their customers.
Such a scheme ensures that the smugglers make a hefty profit in Zimbabwe since they would have imported the fuel into the country duty-free.
Transit fraud occurs in cases where importers declare that goods are passing through Zimbabwe to another country, but they offload them and sell in the country.
Where fuel is declared to be in transit, the tankers are sealed through the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) at the port of entry and the seals are removed at the port of exit after the acquittal process.
The truckers are issued with a dedicated route to follow through the country until they exit and those that deviate are fined US$2 000. Those who remove the seals are usually slapped with varied hefty fines.
It is alleged that syndicates involved in fuel smuggling make false declarations claiming they are shipping in paraffin, Jet A1, bulk cooking oil or soya oil to evade paying import duty.
A few months ago, Zimra intercepted nine fuel tankers at Beitbridge carrying a combined 360 000 litres of smuggled fuel worth US$170 000 in import duty.
In February 2017, Zimra intercepted four fuel tankers that entered Zimbabwe carrying 140 000 litres of diesel purportedly destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, the fuel was offloaded in Chitungwiza and the tankers were filled with water. In July of the same year, Zimra also intercepted two tankers carrying 40 009 litres of petrol worth R233 000, which had been declared as Jet A1 petrol at Beitbridge Border Post.
Under the country’s customs laws, Jet A1 is imported duty-free.