A private investigation has revealed how a Chinese owned company called Simuliya has been manufacturing counterfeit mineral water for various bottling companies, among them Aquasavana and Aquarite.

And some dirty police officers are trying to cover up the crime by convincing the affected company owners that if the scam was exposed, it would destroy the mineral water brand.

Meanwhile, Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya says if found wanting, the Chinese nationals will be deported immediately.

In the footage posted on the News Diggers YouTube channel, police officers from Kanyama raided a bottling plant in the industrial area where Chinese nationals Liu Guifen, Liu Heling and another identified as Jiang have been operating the crime syndicate.

After police officers from the Intellectual Property unity (IPU), D/Inspector Mwale and D/Const Banda raided the location on Friday morning, Liu attempted to stop the investigators from filming his premises where water was being pumped from a nearby pit and filled into various water bottles through a running tap.

Dr Mohamed shows Liu and an officer evidence of the Simuliya company illegally distributing Aquasavana water in Lusaka

Thousands of water bottles bearing several brands were found at the warehouse with Liu’s family and a group of Zambian employees working round the clock to fill the bottles and load them onto trucks for distribution to different clients around Lusaka.

Although the water bottles were evidently being refiled from the tap at the time of the raid, Liu said the water was being purified first before sealing, adding that his company was merely doing whatever the clients who took the empty bottles to him wanted.

“We just get the bottles from our customers. They come here to refill and we do it. This is not water from the tap, you cannot say that we refill from the tap. Refill is done from inside, not here. And please stop filming. Why are you recording, why are recording us? There is nothing wrong with this water!” said Liu.

Fairy Bottling company director Dr Mohamed El Sahili, who produces Aquasavana Mineral water, could not hide his rage after discovering that his products were being reproduced by the Chinese company.

He told News Diggers! that he had reported the matter to investigative wings but none of the institutions took interest to investigate until he decided to prob the matter privately.

“These Chinese people have been making counterfeits of our Aquasavana product. So they go round and collect bottles in the markets and refill them with water which is not our water and they sell it. We tried to inform all the mandated institutions to intervene, but no one could help us. So we decided to go on a private investigation,” Dr Mohamed narrated.

“I managed to have the number of the owner of the company that has been selling these fake products. I called him this morning (Friday), I pretended to be a customer and made the order, and he told me to go there. So I went there but I did not enter until police officers from Kanyama whom we had put on standby arrived. So when we asked him why he was selling water using my company name and in my company bottles, he could not explain. That’s how the police officers ordered him to take us to the warehouse where they keep the bottles. We entered with the police and found them making all these fake products for various other companies,” he said.

Bottles on the refilling tap

Dr Mohamed narrated that after taking the Chinese culprits to the police station, some top officers attempted to cover up the crime.

“We took them to Kanyama police and the police went back to collect the evidence, but they found that the wife of the Chinese man was trying to remove the labels. But it didn’t matter because the design of the bottle itself is registered in our name at PACRA. At the moment, ZABS (Zambia Bureau of Standards) has taken samples of the water so that they can do some tests, because I am sure the water is not even safe for people to drink,” Dr Mohamed narrated.

“Now, there is another Chinese guy who came to Kanyama Police with a much senior police officer. This Chinese guy said he is the president of the Zambia China Business Association or whatever it is called, he told the CIO and the other police officers who were present that him and the Chinese community have been supporting Kanyama and making a lot of donations. He started intimating the people who discovered this scam. So this senior police officer who came with the Chinese official told our legal manager that it was better for the case to be closed immediately. He said it was better if the scandal was not brought to the attention of the public because it was gong to damage the Aquasavana product.”

Dr Mohamed said his concern was that if people were not alerted that there were fake products on the market, they would not know how to distinguish fake mineral water bottles from the authentic ones.

Liu’s wife protests to a Fairy Bottling official and police officers for the investigators to stop filming.

“So this association and some senior other officers are trying to sit on this investigation. And in this country there is always someone corrupt who will sit on such cases. It is sad because when people get sick after drinking fake mineral water, the government will come to me because there is this fake label on the bottles. Our plea is that we don’t want anyone to be selling this fake Aquasavana water. We have also alerted other water companies to get involved in this so that they can also come and see how their brands are being used to sell fake products,” said Dr Mohamed.

In the recent past, the Chinese community in Zambia has been embroiled in various trading scandals including the manufacturing of fake Bata shoes and national team replica jerseys.

Siliya said the Chinese nationals involved would be prosecuted and deported if found guilty.

“I don’t have the full details of that story yet but indeed if people of any nationality come into Zambia under the guise of investors to commit crimes such as copyright infringement, tax evasion and most of all, pose a danger to public health, government through the Ministry of Home Affairs will deport them immediately. Those involved in this case, regardless of their nationality, will be prosecuted and deported once they are found guilty,” said Siliya.

“We are a country open for business, but our people are tired of being taken for granted. if your investigation is accurate, then government will not turn a blind eye as our policy is that businesses, local or foreign that evade tax and cause danger to public health Will be dealt with swiftly especially after the cholera out break. So from Monday (today) I will investigate this matter with my colleagues in Health, Commerce and Home Affairs and Will keep the nation updates. If there are any police officers who are trying to cover up such crimes, I am sure the Minister of Home Affairs will be very happy to deal with them.”

Water reserve at the plant

The other police officers handling the case are Officer Plus Mubanga from Anti Fraud/IPU Lusaka Division, Officer Mwale who is IPU Lusaka Division Coordinator and Detective sergeant Sunga, also from Lusaka Province Division.