HARARE, July 28 — Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s leading mobile phone services operator, stressing that it has paid close to 1.0 billion US dollars in taxes since the country started using multiple foreign currencies five years ago, has refuted allegations that it was under investigation for tax evasion.

A whistle-blower is said to have accused Econet of swindling the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) of 600 million USD in taxes through under-invoicing of imported equipment and garnishing of its bank accounts and this has led to an investigation into the company’s affairs.

However, the local subsidiary of the Johannesburg-based telecoomunications group, says it has not done anything wrong. “For the record, we wish to state that Econet is a good corporate citizen that does not avoid its tax obligations,” said company spokesperson Rangarirai Mberi over the weekend.

“Econet has been recognized by the collector of taxes for its contribution to fiscal revenues and for its compliance record.”

Mberi said Econet had invited Zimra to look into its books following the allegations by the whistle-blower, who used to be a clearing agent for the company.

Econet in turn accused the whistle-blower of failing to remit taxes to Zimra on its behalf and using the money for personal business.

“When we demanded payment of the money, he alleged that he was involved in malpractices in collusion with some Econet employees, and threatened to expose the malpractices if Econet did not pay him,” Mberi said.

“Because the allegations he made were serious, we immediately reported the matter to Zimra and law enforcement agents through meetings our chief executive officer, Mr Douglas Mboweni, held with the authorities.”

Econet dragged Zimra to court over the garnishee order on its accounts and won the case at the High Court.
The firm is, however, still embroiled in a court battle with Zimra on how duty must be charged on its equipment imports.

“The dispute is before two courts of competent jurisdiction, the High Court and the Fiscal Appeal Court. Consequently, we are limited on what we can say about the matter. However, our lawyers are confident about our prospects of success,” Mberi said.