Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter—
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is losing millions of dollars to a syndicate of dealers who process counterfeit undervalued import documents to smuggle vehicles and other products into the country. Several people, some of them former Zimra employees, allegedly act as clearing agents and have been arrested for prejudicing the State of various amounts on money in separate incidents.
Senior Zimra officials who are supposed to be custodians of customs and excise laws, have reportedly used bogus clearing agents to import personal vehicles. Some of the offences were unearthed recently after the owners approached Zimra offices to check the authenticity of documents for their vehicles.
In one of the incidents, two Harare men were arrested on allegations of processing import documents to smuggle in six vehicles through Beitbridge Border Post, prejudicing the State of $157 500,24.
Timoth Simfukwe (39) and Liberty Tinashe Mahembe (30) this week appeared before Harare Magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe, who remanded them to May 27 on $500 bail each.
They are facing six counts of fraud for offences committed between June last year and January this year. Simfukwe is the director of Eftrade Ventures, while Mahembe is employed by Vonlet Trading Private Limited as a manager.
Prosecuting, Mr Sebastian Mutizirwa said on the first count, in June last year, Mr Charlton Chihuri, who is Zimra loss control director, received a $120 000 loan to buy a personal car, a Toyota Landcruiser 2015 model.
He approached Simfukwe to supply him with the vehicle. Simfukwe purchased the vehicle from Verve Auto Investments of South Africa for R1, 013 million and he later approached Mahembe, a clearing agent based at Beitbridge Border Post.
They hatched a plan to undervalue the car and prepared counterfeit import documents with a value of R260 000, which Mahembe presented to Zimra officials at the border post. It is alleged that acting on the counterfeit imports documents, Zimra officials carried out a valuation and assessed duty as $14 928,94.
The vehicle was delivered to Mr Chihuri in July already registered in his name. In a bid to ascertain the authenticity of the value of his motor vehicle, Mr Chihuri checked in the Zimra system and discovered that the vehicle was undervalued on importation.
Further checks revealed that all the paper work was fraudulently done and a report was made to police. The South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) indicated the actual value of the vehicle on export to Zimbabwe was $78 472. The state was prejudiced of $32 939,21.
In another case, Mr Chihuri is alleged to have approached Simfukwe in November 2015 wanting to buy the latest Toyota Landcruiser VX V8. It is alleged that in January this year, Simfukwe purchased the vehicle from Verve Auto Investments of South Africa for R1 170 000 and using the same modus operandi with Mahembe, they processed fake documents.
They paid $20 063,54 for duty after Zimra officials carried out a valuation and assessment. Mr Chihuri is alleged to have again checked the authenticity of his car and discovered the offences again. According to SARS, the actual value of the car was $65 754.
On the other four counts, Simfukwe and Mahembe purchased four vehicles on behalf of four other senior Zimra officials identified as Mrs Anna Mutombodzi (50) (Commissioner of Customs and Excise), Mr Tjiyapo Velempini (49) (director ICT and Infrastructural Development), Mr Clive Charles Majengwa (52) (director internal audit) and Mrs Thokozile Thembani Mrewa (47) (director human resources).
All of them had received loans ranging between $90 000 and $120 000 to purchase Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota Prado vehicles. They all handed their money to Simfukwe on separate occasions last year who then used the same method of operation, conniving with Mahembe to process the fake documents.
Police are investigating other alleged such cases.