BULAWAYO – Zimbabwean police have vowed to bring to book, the supply network of Bulawayo businesses and beyond that are linked to a warehouse where US$110 000 worth of suspected smuggled alcohol consignment was seized in the city last week for possible tax evasion, among other crimes.
The Wood Liquor Warehouse, situated in the Belmont Industrial area in Bulawayo was raided last Friday by police.
This was after Bulawayo Central Traffic police stopped a 30-tonne truck along Plumtree Road, which was towing two trailers, registered under the Capstone Company, a South African firm based in Johannesburg.
The driver was quizzed about the contents of his trailer and was requested to produce supporting documents, which he failed.
He was then ordered to drive to the nearest police station, but he, however, diverted and went to the Wood Liquor warehouse in the Belmont Industrial area.
Police managed to gain access to the property and searched the warehouse where they found it fully packed with an assortment of alcohol inside.
The authorities in the warehouse reportedly could not produce documents to ascertain if the alcohol in the truck paid duty in line with the country’s laws or if the warehouse had a license to sell liquor.
Since the authorities failed to produce the relevant documents, police along with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority seized the truck and its contents and confiscated the alcohol in the warehouse.
When our news crew visited the scene, a truck from a popular liquor outlet was parked ready to receive a consignment of alcohol. Inside the warehouse, there was an assortment of alcohol such as gin, wines, lagers, ciders, and mixers in boxes.
Close indications seem to suggest that several liquor outlets situated in the city centre including popular night spots in the affluent suburbs of Bulawayo could be getting their supplies from the warehouse.
The police investigations case could open the lid into a bigger scandal involving leisure centres selling smuggled goods in violation of the law, including evading tax.
National Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, yesterday said police investigations would be extended to outlets around the city and beyond, which are being supplied suspected smuggled alcohol by the warehouse.
“In terms of tax evasion, the police shall be working with Zimra so that those who are engaged in illegal acts are accounted for,” he told our news crew.
“We are conducting investigations on which nightspots and liquor outlets were being supplied by this warehouse.
“During the course of this week, we shall update the public as to who are these and more detailed information.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said it was highly possible that perhaps this warehouse case might be the tip of an iceberg.
“We are investigating the cases of the confiscated alcohol, and also the fact that these guys are smuggling, and not following the set procedures,” he said.
“We want to find out whether it is confined to Bulawayo or to other places around the country.”
The police raid last Friday came barely two days after three suspected drug dealers, one of them an ex-police officer, was arrested in Bulawayo following a raid at their homes in Entumbane suburb.
Police recovered marijuana, alcohol, weight gain tablets, and cough syrups, among other illicit substances. They also found pipes, which are used to inhale drugs, skin-lightening creams, and plastic sachets, which are used to package drugs.
The trio’s arrest was in response to the recent case in which 17 youths from the same suburb were rushed to Ingutsheni Central Hospital after overdosing on crystal methamphetamine (meth).
Zimbabwe is experiencing an upsurge in drug abuse cases and most of those abusing the drugs are young people. Last year, the Ministry of Health and Child Care launched a five-year strategic plan (2021-2025) against substance abuse to curb its prevalence, which has reached alarming levels.
Substances that are commonly abused are alcohol (both licensed and unlicensed brews) tobacco, cannabis, and non-medical use of controlled medicines such as codeine-containing cough medicines and benzodiazepines.
The sale of smuggled and illicit alcohol has affected local companies such as wine and spirits producer, African Distillers (Afdis) Limited.
According to Afdis, despite registering a significant volume growth and an increase in foreign currency transactions, cheaper and illicit products continue to strain its market share.
In a trading up for the third quarter ending 31 December 2020, the listed firm said it registered a volume growth of 10 percent for the quarter and 11 percent for the nine months compared to the prior year.
The company’s earnings could be higher if not tainted by illicit dealers in the market.
While the Zimbabwe Republic Police routinely bust illicit alcohol distribution networks, the practice persists under shady deals on the streets. – Herald