Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
TWO Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers stationed at Beitbridge Border Post were yesterday convicted of criminal abuse of office after they illegally detained a truckload of liquor that had been officially cleared.
Obert Tafadzwa Charamba (35), a loss control officer, and Stephen Masimuke (50), a supervisor, are accused of detaining a truck belonging to Turkey Trading of Bulawayo between December 23, 2014 and January 14 this year.
The duo had denied any wrongdoing, but Beitbridge magistrate Mr Innocent Bepura convicted them on the strength of overwhelming evidence.
The matter has been set for sentencing on Tuesday next week.
Charamba is represented by Mr Reason Mutimba of Masawi and Partners, while Mr Marshal Chatsanga of Mangwana and Associates is appearing for Masimuke.
Charamba and Masimuke are on $200 bail each.
Prosecutor Mr Foster Abheki told the court that on December 23 last year Turkey Trading Pvt (Ltd) of Bulawayo imported a consignment of liquor from South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post.
The company then enlisted the services of ASB Freight as their clearing agent to facilitate the legal importation of the liquor, which was done at Zimra Beitbridge under bill of entry number C93285 on December 23 2014.
The truck was then cleared by a Zimra official to leave the border but was intercepted by Charamba and Masimuke who referred it to the container depot for further physical examination. This was carried out the following day and no anomaly was picked. But the two insisted on its detention without giving reasons.
The truck and the cargo remained lodged at the depot until January 14, prompting the owners to report the matter to police and approaching the High Court.
The High Court in turn ordered the unconditional release of the vehicle under case number HC 16/15.
Investigations by police established that Charamba and Masimuke did not issue any legal documents (Notice of seizure and duty schedule) as proof that the truck and the cargo were being detained legally at the container depot.
Under normal customs procedure, an importer is issued with a notice of seizure accompanied by a duty schedule where they are suspected of smuggling or underpaid excise or customs duty.
Further investigations revealed that the said consignment was never entered into the Zimra books as having been detained and the two were arrested.