Bongani Ndlovu/Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporters
POLICE yesterday smashed a well-orchestrated smuggling racket and seized an assortment of alcohol worth over US$100 000 suspected to have been illegally brought into the country following the interception of a 30-tonne truck carrying some of the contraband.
The truck, which was towing two trailers, is registered under the Capstone Company, a South African firm based in Johannesburg.
The vehicle was stopped by police from Bulawayo Central Traffic along Plumtree Road. Upon being quizzed, the driver failed to produce supporting documents.
Bulawayo provincial deputy police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said upon being intercepted, the driver was ordered to drive to the nearest police station.
He, however, diverted and went to the Wood Liquor warehouse in the Belmont Industrial area.
“We followed the truck to the warehouse in Belmont and when the truck driver spotted our officers approaching, he immediately drove inside the premises and locked police out,” said Asst Insp Msebele. She said police managed to gain access to the property and searched the warehouse where they found a consignment of alcohol inside.
“Our officers asked for the relevant documents and none were produced by the authorities at the warehouse. We then called officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the Bulawayo City Council,” said Asst Insp Msebele.
She said the estimated value of the seized alcohol was US$110 000 and investigations are on course.
When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the warehouse, police were busy taking stock of the seized contraband. There was an assortment of alcohol such as Gin, wines, lagers, ciders and mixers in boxes. It seems that some outlets situated in the city centre including popular night spots in the affluent suburbs, get their supplies from the warehouse.
The case could open the lid into a bigger scandal involving leisure centres selling smuggled goods violating the law and evading tax.
A BCC truck transported the consignment to the local Zimra warehouse while the Capstone truck was also impounded. Asst Insp Msebele said the suspects are facing charges of violating a section of the Liquor Licence Act and Customs and Excise Act.
“As the police, we urge members of the public to comply with police in the course of their duty. We also urge business owners to acquire relevant licences. Members of the public are urged not to evade customs duty to avoid unnecessary inconveniences,” she said.
The latest development comes barely two days after three suspected drug dealers, one of them an ex-police officer, were 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 become alarming.
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.
Article Source: The Chronicle