The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has seized goods worth millions of dollars belonging to a Copperbelt based company Zamm Imports Limited, while a search is currently ongoing at the company’s warehouses where loads of goods believed to have been imported dubiously were being stored.
The Authority has also seized nine trucks belonging to Zamm Import, pending investigations.
However, ZRA has opted to remain mute on its findings for unexplained reasons.
Sources close to the investigation revealed to News Diggers! that ZRA was investigating a high profile tax fraud case but that there was resistance from within to announce the development to the public.
“There was a report from Kazungula Border post that the following trucks have passed the boarder at night after closure. Somebody took note of the number plates and sent to ZRA. So the Authority tasked a team to go to the Copperbelt to investigate. The team was initially looking for the trucks, but in the process, they were tipped off by someone who pointed to say, ‘this is where they offloaded the goods which were imported’,” the source narrated.
“So it was discovered that the premises or warehouses belong to a Copperbelt-based businessman called Jignesh Soni. He has more that 10 huge warehouses in Ndola and Kitwe. So ZRA demanded that they seal those warehouses and went to court to obtain a search warrant and started searching.”
The source narrated that the businessman immediately went to court and obtained an ex-parte interim injunction restraining ZRA from proceeding with the search and to release the seized trucks.
“Before that search could go anywhere, Soni went to court on February 21 and obtained a court order restraining the ZRA task force from conducting the search and to release the seized goods, including the trucks. It was actually an ex-parte interim injunction granted by judge Timothy Katenekwa last week,” revealed the source.
According to details of the ex-parte order dated February 21, 2020 obtained by News Diggers, addressed to ZRA senior inspector and served by Soni’s lawyers AD Gray and Partners, the businessman asked the court to restrain the Revenue Authority from seizing his trucks and warehouses until determination of the matter.
“Upon hearing counsel for the plaintiff and upon reading the affidavit of one Jignesh Prafulchandra Soni filed herein; and upon the plaintiff by counsel undertaking to abide by an order [which] this Honourable Court may make as to damages if the court shall be of the opinion that the defendant has suffered as a result of this order; it is hereby ordered and directed that the defendant whether by itself, servant and /or agents or otherwise:
1. Be compelled to remove the seals and open the warehouses situated at Plot No. 378 along Makoli Avenue next to Merco (1971) limited, City Centre Ndola and Plot No. F/748/F11 and F12 situated along Kabelenga Road next to Total Service Station and Plot No. 1591/11/1 and 1615/F/1 along President Avenue, Kitwe until any further order by this court or final determination of this matter.
2. Be restrained from seizing motor vehicles with registration No. BCA 256 ATB 2558T (foton), BCB 2955ZM ATB 2572T, ATB 2478 ACX 9533 T (foton), BCB 8030ZM ACZ 1604T (Howo), BCB 8028ZM ACX 9366T (Howo), BCC 4510ZM ATB 2580T (Howo) until any further order by this court or final determination of this matter. Until after the hearing of this matter inter-parte on the 13th day of March 2020 or until further order of this court,” read the court order.
Sources narrated that this week, however, the court order was reversed after ZRA raised an objection.
“On Monday this week, lawyers acting for ZRA filed an application to lift the ex-parte interim injunction, but this was happening at the same time when the business owner was also retreated from the court. On Tuesday after the order was lifted, they started searching the premises. They found all sorts of goods, electrical appliances and what have you, worth literally millions of dollars,” said the source.
“But surprisingly, there is a push from higher authorities that this case must be closed. This is a very interesting case because the story behind the scenes is that the bosses at ZRA are not operating at the same pace, so there is a back and forth among the bosses. Others seem to have personal interests in the business and they are giving contrary orders. You can ask the ZRA bosses to explain how the trucks were allowed to enter the country at night. Who cleared them? Those are the questions.”
A News Diggers under cover journalist who visited the premises found ZRA vehicles registration number BAF 4936 and BAF 4934, among others, with officers touring the warehouse buildings in Ndola.
When contacted, ZRA Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda confirmed that investigators were conducting two different operations on the Copperbelt, but said he would ask spokesperson Topsy Sikalinda to respond to the press query.
Sikalinda, however, said: “We can confirm that we have two operations of the Copperbelt. One involves copper ore importations through Lonshi boarder and the other involves suspected smuggling. We are unable to give details because the investigations are still on going. For now it’s just suspected and we can’t confirm anything untill we conclude the operations.”