Chief Court Reporter
A TRUCKING company had five of its haulage trucks smuggled into the country seized by the State after the High Court ruled they were tainted property, in a civil-judicial forfeiture case.
Madefit Investments (Pvt) Limited would smuggle trucks into the country and change identities of the vehicles to assume the identities of vehicles which would already have been registered in terms of the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act
The offence came to light after police received information about Madefit criminal activities that would result in the offending vehicles carrying false identities, in contravention of the reg- istration law.
Acting on this information, the police impounded seven motor vehicles from stand number 301/99 Tilco Industries, Chitungwiza, being the Madefit’s place of business, and took them for forensic examination.
The examination was carried out on January 10 2020 at the Criminal Investigations Department Vehicle Theft Squad in Southerton, Harare, and established that five of the seven trucks were tainted property.
This prompted the Prosecutor-General’s Office represented by Chief Law Officer Mr Chris Mutangadura to approach the High Court applying for
an order to confiscate the vehicles at the centre of smuggling.
The application for a civil forfeiture order was brought in terms of Section 79 as read with s80 of the Money Launder- ing and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9:24) (MLPCA).
The State’s contention was that Madefit’s five motor vehicles were tainted property and should be forfeited to the State.
Though the company through their lawyers Mr David Ngwerume and Mr Augustine Borerwa strenuously opposed the application, Justice Benjamin Chikowero ruled in favour of forfei- ture, finding that all the five vehicles had their identities altered in fundamental respects.
“I find that the five vehicles in the present matter were provided with false identities,” said Justice Chikowero.
“They are not, on a balance of prob- abilities, the vehicles that the respective registration books present them to be.
“I find that some kind of serious criminal conduct, known to or suspected by the owner and possessor of these vehicles, the respondent, accounts for this position. Therefore, all the five motor vehicles are tainted property and are forfeited to the State.”
The court noted that the original chas- sis numbers in respect of all the vehicles could not be restored even when the vehicles were subjected to the forensic examination procedure called chem- ical etching. Ridges, furrows or linear marks (striation marks) stood where the original chassis numbers were placed by the vehicles’ manufacturer, a testament to force having been applied to remove the original chassis numbers.
“In respect of all the vehicles, there are now new chassis numbers,” said Justice Chikowero citing a vehicle appearing as ADS 4104 the original chassis number was not only completely erased but a new one was dot punched at a different area of the vehicle,” said Justice Chikowero.
Further the court noted that despite bearing a new, and different chassis number, the vehicle now appearing as ADZ 4880 was resilient to the extent that remnants of the original chassis number, JH537341, were restored under the foren- sic examination.
Yet, in applying for and obtaining approval for restoration not only of the engine, but chassis number, Madefit had supplied the chassis number as IHTRLOOO85H652 998. This meant the application for restoration of the chas- sis number was deceptive and Justice Chikowero said the company could not rely on the deception to resist forfeiture of this vehicle.
To this end, Justice Chikowero was satisfied that the five vehicles had assumed false identities and ruled that they were proceeds of some kind of criminal activity.