By RICHARD MUPONDE
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has arrested 10 Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers and agents based at Beitbridge Border Post over alleged smuggling of 433 vehicles into the country.
Four supervisors are still under investigation, of which one of them has since been suspended after being implicated in the scam.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Zacc confirmed the arrest of the officials, who are likely to appear in court today.
“A team of Zacc officers on the above-mentioned operation have achieved the following. About 10 Zimra officers and agents have been arrested and they are likely to appear at Beitbridge Magistrates’ Court probably by end of this week. Four supervisors are also implicated in the smuggling scam and one supervisor was suspended and the other three are still at work. There are three companies which were contracted by Zimra to clear vehicles and goods, (and they) were also arrested and are likely to appear in court as soon as possible,” Zacc said.
According to a section of the Customs and Excise Act, any person who smuggles any goods shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 14 or three times the duty-paid value of the goods, whichever is the greater.
The offence also attracts imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both.
Offenders are also liable to paying costs of investigations, where smuggled goods were discovered by the use of any mechanical scanning device.
A fortnight ago, Zimra recalled 433 vehicles after it was detected that they were smuggled and did not pay customs and excise duty.
Zimra officials, allegedly working hand in glove with some unscrupulous shipping agents or third parties, are believed to be behind the scheme, whose epicentre was at Beitbridge, the country and region’s busiest port.
The scheme, run by various syndicates, was exposed after some vehicles were intercepted by the department and other government agencies.
Other ports might have been involved in the scam, which exposes how porous the customs and excise systems could be.
The government recently enacted another legislation that provides for the forfeiture of any goods or assets deemed to have been acquired from proceeds of crime.
At Beitbridge, some shipping agents known to have been beneficiaries of this smuggling ring have built massive houses and drive expensive vehicles.
Zimra spokesperson Francis Chimanda asked for questions to be emailed to him, but had not responded at the time of going to print last night.