A recent court case has brought to light a covert operation involving the smuggling of luxury vehicles into the country by individuals connected to various state agencies, including the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Harare magistrate Donald Ndirowei refused bail to three suspected car smugglers, Brian Matongo (41), Tinashe Kanda (41), and Elvis Jieman (28), during their court appearance yesterday.

The trio has been remanded until March 10, pending the potential start of their trial, as the State awaits a statement from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra). According to State prosecutor Anesu Chirenje, the accused individuals allegedly became involved in a smuggling cartel in 2018 that imported high-end vehicles from South Africa into Zimbabwe.

To facilitate their illegal activities, the suspects colluded with individuals from Zimra, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara), Central Vehicle Registration (CVR), and even the CIO. The operation involved unlawfully registering vehicles within the systems of these institutions.

One specific incident highlighted by the prosecutor occurred on December 12, 2017, when the accused, in collaboration with Wisdom Ndebele, conspired to smuggle a Toyota Fortuner from South Africa into Zimbabwe. To take advantage of the tax, license, and toll fee exemptions provided by Zimra, Zinara, and CVR, Kanda used his connections to obtain a vehicle registration book and a number plate belonging to the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Jieman then attached the fraudulent number plate to the smuggled Toyota vehicle, thus avoiding payment of taxes, vehicle license fees, and toll fees. The Office of the President and Cabinet became aware of the offense when an increasing number of missing exempted registration plates began circulating in the market. Subsequently, the matter was reported to the police for further investigation, leading to the recovery of the illicitly obtained vehicle and registration plates.

The revelations from this court case have raised serious concerns about corruption within state institutions and the misuse of privileges for personal gain. The alleged involvement of personnel from Zimra, Zinara, CVR, and the CIO has incited public outrage, with demands for a thorough investigation and the prosecution of all those involved in the smuggling operation.