Zimra chief Pasi, 5 bigwigs suspended • Car importation scandal cited • All suspended with benefits

Source: Zimra chief Pasi, 5 bigwigs suspended • Car importation scandal cited • All suspended with benefits | The Herald May 7, 2016

Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) board has suspended its Commissioner-General Mr Gershem Pasi and five other senior executive managers after questions were raised over the importation of vehicles.

This comes amid reports that Zimra was losing millions of dollars to dealers who processed counterfeit undervalued import documents to smuggle vehicles and other products into the country.

Comm-Gen Pasi and the five executive managers were sent on paid leave with immediate effect.

The other five executives are Loss control director, Mr Charlton Chihuri (40); Mrs Anna Mutombodzi (50), Commissioner of Customs and Excise; Mr Tjiyapo Velempini (49), director ICT and Infrastructural Development; Mr Clive Charles Majengwa (52), director internal audit; and, Mrs Sithokozile Thembani Mrewa (47), director human resources.

In a statement, Zimra board chairperson Mrs Willia Bonyongwe confirmed the suspensions.

“The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is the State’s agent in assessing, collecting and enforcing payment of revenues. It is important that all employees who are tasked to carry out this important function themselves be beyond reproach.

“The Zimra Board has become aware that questions have been raised and indeed criminal proceedings instituted pertaining to the importation of vehicles by some Zimra employees,” she said.

She said the board reassured all stakeholders that it had been seized with this issue for some time, resulting in it taking the measures of suspending the six.

“The Zimra board has also instituted measures to carry out a forensic audit and to ensure continuity of Zimra operations, the Zimra board has appointed Mr Happias Kuzvinzwa, currently Commissioner Domestic Taxes, as Acting Commissioner-General.

“The Zimra board wants to take this opportunity to advise members of the public that the authority now has a hotline to which any corrupt activity by any Zimra employee can be reported. The toll-free hotline numbers are: Econet – 0808190; Telecel – 0732880880 and WhatsApp – 0772 135690,” Mrs Bonyongwe said.

She said already, some stakeholders had taken advantage of the hotline and the Zimra board was grateful for the information being received.

“The Zimra board assures the nation that it continues to strive to plug all revenue leakages, and in this regard all reports of corrupt activities will be vigorously followed up,” she said.

Added Mrs Bonyongwe yesterday: “We have sent them on paid leave. We cannot investigate them while they are still at work. As head of the authority, Mr Pasi was supposed to go as well, so that he does not interfere with the investigations.

“The suspension is not as a result of the Press reports, recently. We have been seized with the matter since March. The mandate we were given on appointment as Zimra board is to fight corruption.

“We have been doing some investigations for a long time. We did not want to rush to the Press before we had some experts looking into the matter.

“We are looking at how the loans were extended to the people, how the money was transferred to the car dealers among others.”

Zimra has been losing millions of dollars to a syndicate of dealers who process counterfeit undervalued import documents to smuggle in vehicles.

Several people, some of them former Zimra employees, allegedly act as clearing agents and have been arrested for prejudicing the State of various amounts of money in separate incidents.

Senior Zimra officials who are supposed to be custodians of customs and excise laws, have reportedly used bogus clearing agents to import personal vehicles.

Some of the offences were unearthed recently after the owners approached Zimra offices to check the authenticity of documents for their vehicles.

In one of the incidents, two Harare men were arrested on allegations of processing import documents to smuggle in six vehicles through Beitbridge Border Post, prejudicing the State of $157 500,24.

Timoth Simfukwe (39) and Liberty Tinashe Mahembe (30) this week appeared before Harare Magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe, who remanded them to May 27 on $500 bail each.

They are facing six counts of fraud for offences committed between June last year and January this year.

Simfukwe is the director of Eftrade Ventures, while Mahembe is employed by Vonlet Trading Private Limited as a manager.

The two are accused of hatching plans to undervalue cars and preparing counterfeit import documents for Chihuri, Mutombodzi, Velempini, Majengwa and Mrewa.

All of them had received loans ranging between $90 000 and $120 000 to purchase Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota Prado vehicles.

They all handed their money to Simfukwe on separate occasions last year who then used the same method of operation, conniving with Mahembe to process the fake documents.