Victor Maphosa, Harare Bureau
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has arrested 10 Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers and agents stationed at Beitbridge Border Post on allegations of smuggling vehicles into the country.
This is just a tip of what is suspected to be a very large syndicate involving 102 of the suspected 2 400 smuggled vehicles in the investigation.
In addition to the 10 arrested, four Zimra supervisors are suspected of being implicated in the smuggling scam, and one of them has since been suspended from work to pave the way for investigations.
Reports also suggest that managers of three companies that were contracted by Zimra to clear the vehicles and goods implicated in the scam and their clearing agents, have also been arrested or face arrest.
ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure yesterday confirmed the arrests.
“Yes, we have arrested 10 Zimra officials who were allegedly involved in the smuggling of vehicles and they will soon appear in court,” he said.
“The operation targeting to recover smuggled vehicles is an ongoing exercise and we will not rest until all who are involved are brought to book.
“ZACC and Zimra have since started to recover some of the vehicles which entered in the country illegally. We expect to recover more. The nation has lost thousands (of dollars) in revenue in this scam and we need to recover that money.”
The arrests come after ZACC and Zimra launched a blitz targeting suspected smuggled vehicles which were usually sold at car sales across the country.
About 102 vehicles have so far been recovered.
Vehicles netted under the blitz were recovered from Washnet, Emri and Prince Edward Car Sales and from a dealer based at the intersection of Mazowe Street and Josiah Tongogara Avenue in Harare.
Mr Makamure said the operation was continuing and more arrests were likely once investigations were completed.
The joint operation by the ZACC and Zimra is targeting 2 400 vehicles suspected to have been smuggled in recent months.
Mr Makamure warned car importers and Zimra officials that ZACC will not hesitate to arrest those found on the wrong side of the law, whatever their status in society.
He said the country should have earned foreign currency through duty payments, but corrupt officials are blocking revenue collection.
“We recently signed an MoU with Zimra to collaborate in the fight against graft and these are some of the fruits. There will be several arrests and this will include high-profile figures linked to these criminal activities,” said Comm Makamure.
Recently, Zimra identified 433 vehicles suspected to have been smuggled into Zimbabwe and has invited their owners to the revenue collecting body’s offices for verification.
Top-of-the range models that include Toyota Landcruisers, BMWs, Jeep Grand Cherokees, Toyota Hilux, Toyota Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Toyota Fortuners, Range Rovers, Isuzus, Land Rover Discoveries, Ford Rangers and Audis, are dominating the targeted list.