THE Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has been implicated in the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) vehicle importation scandal, amid indications that it used a dodgy dealer to import 21 Toyota Corolla vehicles last year.
By Wongai Zhangazha
The vehicle importation scam has resulted in the revenue body’s commissioner- general Gershem Pasi and five executive managers being sent on paid leave.
According to sources at the revenue authority, CIO imported the vehicles using Harare dealer, Timothy Simfukwe who is accused of allegedly undervaluing four cars belonging to Zimra Human resources director Sithokozile Mrewa, customs and exercise commissioner Annah Mutombodzi, internal audit director Clive Majengwa, ICT director Tjiyapo Velempini and loss control director Charlton Chihuri.
The sources said investigations revealed the vehicles were undervalued by a minimum of 30% of their real value.
Normal procedure for government vehicles is that they are imported through Central Mechanical Equipment Department using a duty free certificate. However, it is understood that the CIO and police import their own vehicles.
A source who preferred anonymity said: “Investigations towards the end of January this year uncovered a huge racket involving vehicles which were being undervalued by some Zimra officials at Beitbridge Border Post and imported fraudulently. The investigations by the revenue body also showed that about 21 Corollas imported by CIO were undervalued, while 17 brand new executive cars, which include Prados and Land Cruisers, were also undervalued.
“The racket shows that most of these cars, Prados, Land Cruisers and Range Rovers, belong to top politicians and businesspeople. This has actually been going on for years. Simfukwe was working with some people in the system, including CIO. However, surprisingly we hear that they want to turn him into a state witness basically to cover up their tracks.”
Sources said the vehicle scam, which might suck in high-profile public figures also saw about 17 vehicles, that include Land Cruisers and Prados, were also undervalued by Simfukwe for bigwigs.
The sources said investigations indicate the number of the vehicles smuggled into the country could be more.
Media reports say more than 400 cars are believed to have been smuggled into the country this year alone by a syndicate of Zimra and clearing agents who have been processing counterfeit undervalued import documents to smuggle vehicles and other products.
Five suspects were arrested in connection with some of the cases after they allegedly cleared 52 cars in Harare using the fake documents.
This week, a Zimra official Aaron Gofo who was based at Beitbridge Border Post, and believed to have been part of a syndicate that processed counterfeit import documents to smuggle top-of-the-range vehicles and other luxury products, committed suicide in unclear circumstances. Gofo had been suspended from work.
Three of the Zimra executive managers — Chihuri, Mrewa and Majengwa — appeared in court last week facing charges of criminal abuse of office for allegedly undervaluing import duty on motor vehicles and swindling the state of US$110 000.
The three were granted US$500 bail each by provincial magistrate Tendai Mahwe.
According to court documents, allegations against Mrewa are that on different dates between May and August last year, and contrary to her duties, she connived with Simfukwe, a director of Eftrade Ventures (motor vehicle dealer and importer), and Liberty Tinashe Mahembe of Vonlet Trading (clearing agent) based in Beitbridge, to have her Toyota Prado declared as a second-hand vehicle when, in fact, it was imported brand new.
The state alleges Mrewa connived with Mahembe and Simfukwe to have the vehicle imported in her name instead of Efrtrade Ventures which was the actual importer.
It is alleged that due to her actions, Mrewa prejudiced the state of US$24 156,17, while Majengwa and Chihuri, who used the same method, prejudiced the state of US$32 825,18 and US$52 985,61 respectively. The state also alleges Majengwa undervalued a Toyota Land Cruiser, while Chihuri undervalued two Toyota Land Cruisers.
Efforts to get comment from State Security minister Kembo Mohadi were fruitless last night.
Zimra officials were also not available for comment.