Counterfeit cigarettes alarming

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THE levels to which people will go to make quick money are truly diabolical and it is extremely alarming that the Zambia Revenue Authority has again busted a counterfeit scam.
A combined team comprising ZRA, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), Immigration Department and the police raided a place named Mango Investments Tobacco Limited for suspected conspiracy to defraud the government through illegal importation, manufacturing and distribution of cigarettes.
ZRA Corporate Communications Manager Topsy Sikalinda said the illegal manufacturing of cigarettes is a conspiracy to defraud government its Tax Revenues.
Sikalinda revealed that a compliance check reviewed suspected serious Tax evasion, intellectual property infringement, concealments and misclassifications.
He said during the operation, it was discovered that Mango Tobacco Investment Limited was manufacturing, and packaging cigarettes without affixing ZRA cigarette tax stamps.
Sikalinda said the authority further discovered that the company also manufactured suspected counterfeit brands of cigarettes branded in foreign languages.
“It was further observed that, the company making import declaration of empty cartridges for cigarettes that are zero rated for duty when in fact they were importing already manufactured cigarettes that should have paid various taxes to the Government of the Republic of Zambia,” Sikalinda said.
Such acts not only dent Government coffers but they put the lives of consumers at risk because there is no quality control of the products being pushed onto the market.
It is unfortunate that a few ruthless individuals can use theor business know how to come up with schemes that defraud authorities.
The continued and blatant acts of misclassification and false declarations can easily dissuade otherwise honest business persons from abiding by the law, especially when you compare the volumes of illicit goods that these criminals are dealing in.
Just in July, ZRA seized various cases of assorted alcoholic beverages worth over K 1 million.
ZRA Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda, expressed sadness at the continued illegal activities and promised the Zambians and the government that the Authority will not allow this to go on unchecked.
Speaking during a tour of the ZRA Makeni Enforcement Centre warehouse and the inspection of smuggled alcoholic beverages, Mr. Chanda expressed disappointment at the levels of smuggling activities which range from false declarations to transit fraud.
Mr. Chanda further stressed that the Authority will go back to ensuring perpetrators lose their goods and transportation vessel as a way of deterring smuggling.
He added fining the smugglers in order to collect taxes was not enough to deter the perpetrators.
The inspection of the track revealed that the consignment which was declared under the Ministry of Education bill of entry and classified as filling cabinets was in fact an assortment of alcoholic drinks intended for sale.
The current truck that has been impounded and issued with a seizure notice is expected to lead to various arrests which will see the perpetrators being charged with various offences among them; false declarations, false representation, misclassification, forgery and smuggling all under the Customs and Excise Act, Chapter 322 of the Laws of Zambia.
The truck containing the alcohol entered the country through Chirundu One Stop Border Post and was being monitored by the Intelligence Unit of the Zambia Revenue Authority using sophisticated surveillance equipment such as drones.
The seizure comes barely few days after the Authority impounded other trucks with alcohol that was declared as onions and fuel that was in transit but offloaded in Zambia.
Zambia should not be used as a thieves’ den and we commend the authorities for nipping such acts in the bud.
The onus is now on vigilant citizens to sniff out and raise alarm on such acts of deceit.

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