Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has smashed a massive fuel smuggling scandal at Beitbridge Border Post after it intercepted two tankers carrying over 40 000 litres of petrol worth over R233 000.
The petrol had been declared as Jet A1 fuel. Petrol attracts $0,45 per litre in excise duty, while Jet A1 is duty-free. A litre of petrol is sold for $1,34 on the local market and the State stood to lose $18 000 in revenue.
The Herald is reliably informed that the contraband was being cleared by Fortune Freight of Beitbridge and carried in two South African-registered trucks belonging to Wardens.
A source within the Ferret team made up of Zimra, police and other security agencies said the two trucks were intercepted on Monday following a tip off.
He said the incident comes a few days after another two trucks were intercepted while carrying petrol disguised as soya oil. “In most cases, these syndicates make false declarations claiming they are shipping in paraffin, bulk cooking oil or soya oil to evade paying import duty,” said the official.
“No arrests have been made as yet, but the information we have is that the consignment was destined for Kaladan Investments of Bulawayo. The petrol was bought from South Africa and the owners declared it as Jet A1 petrol destined for Joshua Mqabuko International Airport.
“We acted on the information when the consignment reached Beitbridge Border Post. The vehicle drivers disappeared on Monday soon after getting wind of the interception, but later came back on the same day.”
The source said samples of the fuel were taken for laboratory test and proved to be petrol. The trucks were impounded pending further investigations. By the end of the day yesterday, the two trucks were still parked on the customs yard’s commercial export section.
“We suspect the syndicate has been in operation for a very long time and we want to warn the others culprits that the honey moon is over,” said the source.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson, Inspector Philisani Ndebele said he was yet to be briefed. “You may find out from Customs and Excise authorities,” he said.
Zimra’s acting board secretary, corporate and communications Ms Ropafadzai Majaja could neither confirm nor deny the incident. “I am unable to furnish you with specific details pertaining to clients cleared by ZIMRA because of secrecy provisions of the Revenue Authority Act (Chapter 23:11),” she said.
“The Revenue Authority Act precludes the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority from divulging specific details pertaining to its clients to a third party.”
Ms Majaja said fuel clearance process involved the verification of documents submitted by the importer or clearing agent. After that the tankers pass through the scanner to confirm the nature of its load.
“A post-clearance verification is done by ZIMRA’s Anti-Smuggling Unit in line with the authority’s risk profiling parameters,” she said. “In addition, we may verify documentation with counterparts such as the South African Revenue Service (SARS), where necessary. “Electronic seals are attached for monitoring the trucks from point of entry to exit where the fuel is in transit through Zimbabwe.”
In February, ZIMRA intercepted four fuel tankers which entered the country carrying 140 000 litres of diesel purportedly destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The fuel was offloaded in Chitungwiza and the tankers were filled with water.
The State was prejudiced of $55 650 in the scam.