ZRA names Puma in latest fuel smuggling syndicate

The Zambia Revenue Authority has discovered an organized fuel smuggling syndicate through the Chirundu One Stop Boarder Post worth over K2.8 million in unpaid duty and taxes.

In a statement today, ZRA corporate affairs manager Topsy Sikalinda revealed that an agent, Chombe Gondwe, was importing the fuel on behalf of Puma Energy PLC although the company says the fuel is not theirs.

He stated Gondwe had been arrested and charged with smuggling for declaring Jet A1 fuel at the border, which is duty free, when he was transporting petrol and diesel in a bid to avoid paying taxes.

“In the latest scam, the importer falsely declared the consignment as Jet A1 fuel (which is duty free) when in fact it was petrol and diesel. During intelligence led patrols, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Elite Anti-Smuggling Squad intercepted the first three trucks on the morning of 17th September 2017, as they were moving into Lusaka. After checking the documents presented by the drivers, the officers discovered that contrary to the declaration of Jet A1 fuel made at Chirundu, the trucks were in fact carrying petrol,” Sikalinda stated.

“This led to a full investigation being commissioned and 10 other trucks with petrol and diesel were discovered to have been smuggled in a similar manner and no duties and taxes were paid.

Our investigations have so far revealed that misclassification of Petrol as Jet A1 fuel was meant to facilitate smuggling of the consignment contrary to section 149 of the Customs and Excise Act CAP 322 of the laws of Zambia. Documentary evidence from our counterparts on the Zimbabwean side, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) confirms the nature of cargo as being petrol and not Jet A1 fuel as declared on the Zambian side.”

He stated that investigations had revealed that Gondwe was importing the fuel on behalf of Puma Energy PLC.

“It is important to note that ZRA now has a strong Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zimbabwe Revenue (ZIMRA) Authority and other Revenue bodies in the region to help us curb all smuggling activities in the region. Investigations have further revealed that import declarations were done by the Agent at Chirundu on behalf of Puma Energy Zambia Limited who were found to have fully paid for the respective entries. All the 13 entries currently confirmed by investigations were imported under Puma Energy PLC and fully paid for as Jet A1 supplies,” Sikalinda stated.

“Statements so far given indicated that three trucks were originally supplied from the South Africa to a Mr Chombe Gondwe who has a contract of about 350,000 liters every month and investigations further revealed that 10 trucks were earlier supplied and received by Mr Chombe Gondwe before the current 3 being held by ZRA in Lusaka. We can confirm that Mr Chombe Gondwe was traced and arrested. He has appeared in court for the offence of smuggling contrary to section 149 of the customs and excise Act Cap 322 of the laws of Zambia.”

He stated that ZRA had started a process of recovering taxes from companies which had been avoiding paying tax in a similar fashion.

“This year in June, the government through ZRA sent an expert verification team to South Africa on a fact finding mission for importation of petroleum products. This was after concerns from the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) over low levels of fuel uplifts or stock movements at Tazama leading to over stocking of the commodity and affecting storage space. It is important to note that the verification mission established that some oil Marketing companies were using SADC Certificates of Origin in order to avoid paying Taxes. ZRA has since started the process of recovering the taxes for the last 5 years,” he stated.

“In October 2017, another truck was intercepted by the ZRA Elite Anti-Smuggling Squad carrying petrol with falsified documents indicating that the shipment was in transit to the DRC when in fact not. This truck is also currently held by ZRA. The current status is that the three trucks are currently in detention, Puma Energy has denied ownership of the products despite being cleared and paid for by the company at the time of entry.”

He asked citizens with information on smuggling and tax evasion to come forward.

“As the Zambia Revenue Authority, We want to make a passionate appeal to all Zambians that we can make our country a better place if you help us with information on all smuggling and tax invasion activities that are happening in our organizations and communities. Acts like these have a potential to destroy the economy, distort the national fuel statistics hence, affecting planning and even grounding the entire economy because this create lapses in the planning and smooth restocking process. We want to make it clear that ZRA will not tolerate any form of smuggling or Tax evasion by any individual or company,” stated Sikalinda.

         

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