Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Two Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (zimra) officials who were recently arrested for facilitating the smuggling of roofing material worth $8 535 in import duty after demanding a R2 000 from a truck driver appeared in court last Thursday facing criminal abuse of office charges.
The importation of building material requires a permit in line with the provisions of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which removed specified goods from the Open General Import Licence (OGIL).
Wisdom Matsekedza (35) and Muchineripi Hokonya (32), who are both revenue officers, were arrested by the Ferret Team on June 11, after their deal was busted as the truck driver was about to leave the last gate at the border with the smuggled goods. They were asked to plead to the charges (criminal abuse of office) when they appeared before Beitbridge magistrate, Mr Trevor Nyatsanza, on summons, who remanded them to June 28 for trial on free bail.
The Ferret Team is made up of the police, other security agencies and the zimra Anti-Smuggling Unit. Prosecuting, Mr Jabulani Mberesi, told the court that on June 10, the two men were deployed to the border post mobile scanners’ shed on the commercial imports section, where haulage trucks are searched.
He said at around 1800 hours, Hokonya was approached by Peter Bhobho who was transporting building material from Midrand (South Africa) to Bulawayo.
The trucker offered Hokonya R200 for him not to subject the vehicle to any searches within the border.
Further allegations are that Hokonya took the customs document to his colleague (Matsekedza) and they connived to allow the vehicle a smooth passage on condition Bhobho paid them a bribe of R2 000.
They stamped the trucker’s customs documents without subjecting the truck to any form of search on the understanding that Bhobho would pay them the full amount soon after leaving the border area
The trio also exchanged contacts.
Mr Mberesi said the accused persons’ luck ran out after Bhobho was intercepted by the Ferret Team at the last check point before leaving the border after it was discovered that he had only declared four coils and left out the bulk of the consignment.
He said upon further enquiries, Bhobho failed to explain how he had managed to navigate through commercial mobile scanners without properly declaring his consignment.
The import duty on the undeclared goods include — 220 iron sheets, 40 iron ridges and 12 shutters — was worth $8 535.
Bhobho allegedly pretended to be collecting more customs documents from the vehicle before fleeing, leaving the keys in the ignition.
The truck was then clamped.
Mr Mberesi said police detectives later caught up with Bhobho, who then implicated Hokonya and Matsekedza.
The two were subsequently arrested the following day and the vehicle (horse and trailer registration numbers CZJ970MP and C034GP) and the consignment were confiscated by zimra under notice of seizure numbers 017344 and 017345 respectively