HARARE, July 11 — The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is investigating a local company, Oriental Wholesalers, for illegally importing more than 8,000 tonnes of sugar from Brazil and India without the relevant licenses from the government.
The sugar, which arrived in the country in containers beginning in March this year, is currently lying unclaimed at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) Manica Depot in Rugare, near here.
The ZRP Officer Commanding Harare Province, Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) Clement Munoriarwa, led a delegation which included journalists to the Zimra depot where the sugar is being held and to Oriental Wholesalers, which is located in the Workington area of the capital.
“We made a discovery of a large consignment of sugar and we are trying to investigate how it got into the country, whether they have import licence from the relevant Ministries that should issue those licenses,”
he told journalists after the visits.
“Our concern is that we have large production of sugar in the country and when we see large quantities of sugar being imported we query the reasonableness of conducting such activities.”
The government raised the import duty for sugar from 10 per cent, to 10 per cent plus 100 USD per tonne, in the 2014 National Budget to limit imports which were flooding the market but this did not deter importers, leading the government to introduce a law requiring importers to be granted a licence first before importing the commodity.
SAC Munoriarwa said investigations had so far revealed that only 1,000 tonnes had proper documentation while over 7,000 tonnes remained unaccounted for. “The explanation that we have got (from Zimra) is that they are trying to get an import license so that they can clear the commodities but we are also interested to know how that is going to take place,” he said.
The tour revealed that the sugar, which is imported in bulk 50-kilogramme bags, was being repacked into smaller two-kg and five-kg packets for resale.
The visit to Oriental, which is believed to be owned by individuals of Pakistani origin, did not yield any answers as only workers were present.
Officials at Zimra said besides the 8,000 tonnes which had been verified, more sugar was yet to be accounted for as it was still in locked containers.
“We are only able to open the containers to check what is inside when the owners have come with the necessary documentation to claim their property,” a Zimra official told the delegation. The Zimra official said the sugar arrived in batches totalling 253 containers.
They said if the commodity did not have proper documentation and remained unclaimed over a period of 60 days, it would be forfeited to the state and auctioned at a later stage.
SOURCE: NEW ZIANA