SILUMESI MALUMO writes
THE Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has unearthed an illegal cigarette manufacturing scam at the boundary of Kanyama and Makeni compound in Lusaka.
Last night 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.
The compliance check immediately reviewed suspected serious tax evasion, intellectual property infringement, concealments and misclassifications.
ZRA Corporate Communications Manager, Topsy Sikalinda, told the Sunday Nation yesterday that during the operation, it was discovered that the company was manufacturing and packing cigarettes without affixing ZRA cigarette tax stamp.
Mr Sikalinda also said it was noticed that the company also manufactured suspected counterfeit brands of cigarettes branded in a foreign language.
He said the company was making import declarations of empty cartridges for cigarettes when in fact they were importing already manufactured cigarettes.
Mr Sikalinda said according to the Customs and Excise Duty Act Cap 322 section 108A of the laws of Zambia, manufacturers of cigarettes for the Zambian market were required to fix cigarette stamps issued by ZRA to help in curbing smuggling and easily identified illegal products on the market.
He said ZRA had intensified monitoring of all business premises working with other law enforcement agencies.
He had explained that the company has also been importing already manufactured but unpackaged cigarettes, as empty cartridges, which are duty free, but later repackaged at the illegal Kanyama factory.
“The ZRA is also sensitising the public by going to places like markets especially COMESA market on the dangers of dealing in illegal cigarettes and how to identify them.
Any cigarette pack without a ZRA stamp on it is illegal and should not be sold on the market. Such negative vices create price distortion on the market that result in tax revenue losses for the government and the people of Zambia,” Mr Sikalinda said.