Tobacco smugglers almost cost State N$13.9 million

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Rundu

Government Treasury almost lost N$13.9 million in excise duties and taxes from the illicit cigarettes confiscated from a South African company that unsuccessfully attempted to smuggle the huge consignment aboard fuel tankers from Zimbabwe to South Africa via Namibia.

“The duties and taxes, if a formal declaration was made, would [have] amounted to N$13.96 million,” chief customs and excise officer for enforcement and operations for the north-eastern regions Godwin Mwilima told New Era yesterday. The South African registered fuel tankers were impounded at the customs office in Rundu.

The Namibian Police in collaboration with customs in Rundu last month apprehended two trucks destined for South Africa that were transporting a large consignment of cigarettes hidden in tankers that carry liquefied petroleum gas.

The 1 130 boxes of cigarettes have an estimated wholesale street value of N$11.3 million. The truck drivers Lyson Malangiza, aged 35 years, and Trust Marudza, aged 46, are still in custody after being denied bail during their first court appearance. Mwilima said the drivers refused to reveal the identity of their employer.

“They know the owner because they have communicated with him several times but I believe that Interpol is busy with investigations,” he said.

The two drivers are scheduled to make another court appearance on July 8. Talk is rife that the tankers will only be released once the excise duty fee is paid. The drivers declared at the entry point in the Zambezi Region that they were not transporting any consignment, but law enforcers became suspicious as to why the drivers would prefer to travel from Zimbabwe to South Africa via Namibia instead of making use of the Botswana route which is much shorter.

They face charges of contravening Section 14 (a) read with Section 1 and 91 of the Customs and Excise Act 20 of 1998 – non-declaration of goods upon entering Namibia – as well as contravening Section 6 (c) read with Section 1, 10 and 11 (1) of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 29 of 2014 involving money laundering.

The tankers have secret openings just below where the tankers connect with the truck and were securely screwed shut and not easily detected.

However, curious customs and police officers had to unscrew the openings to see what was inside.

“We followed these trucks after our officials became suspicious. How does one drive through Namibia to South Africa from Zimbabwe if you are not loading anything? That is a long route,” customs controller, Augustinus Philip Chiseke, told New Era at the time.

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