Bulawayo beer merchant sues police over US$110,000 worth of seized liquor

BULAWAYO – Bulawayo’s Wood Liquor Warehouse Trading Company (PVT) Limited owners have threatened to take the Zimbabwe Republic Police to court if the law enforcement organisation fails to release an alcohol consignment and property they claim was illegally seized for allegedly operating outside the confines of the law.

Through company lawyers, Ncube and Partners Legal Practitioners, Wood Liquor Warehouse owners said police forced their employees to admit to false accusations the liquor trader was operating illegally.

“We refer to the above matter wherein our client’s property including receipt books and various liquor were seized on the 20th January 2023, with the above-mentioned seizure confirmation receipts on the allegation of contravening Section 113 of the Liquor Act (Chapter 14:12).

“From the onset and at the scene, the writer advised your Inspector Mutukwa that our client was denying any wrongdoing.

“Since the seizure was being done on Friday evening and would obviously continue into Saturday, the writer advised that he attends the matter after Sabbath worship.

“The writer was flummoxed to learn that in his absence and whilst at church, one of our client’s employees was coerced to sign an admission of guilt form Z69 (j) serial number 1632508A.

“We trust that this admission of guilt has since been cancelled as it is, in the circumstances, invalid.”

Lawyers dismissed allegations that the confiscated 30-tonne truck was smuggling alcohol into the country.

They argued the truck had already been cleared by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) of any law violations and must, accordingly, be released from police custody.

“It is now common cause that the truck intercepted by the ZRP (Traffic) on suspicion of transporting smuggled goods was unfounded.

“The transporter, Capstone Carriers, was proven to be transporting goods properly imported into the country though not by our client.

“Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) released the vehicle clearing it of any violation of any laws.

“Our client does not import any of its liquor as it procures from local suppliers. It is, therefore, inconceivable that any reasonable suspicion can arise that they smuggle (d) any goods into the country.”

The lawyers maintained that it was unfair to penalise their clients for not providing a liquor licence as they had been given the green light by relevant authorities to continue trading while awaiting finalisation of their application.

“Back to the seizure. Our clients still maintain that it is invalid simply because, upon expiration of their licence, they immediately applied for another.

“The law is clear that ‘where an administrative authority is seized with a duty to perform a certain act as a condition for another party to act, it cannot be allowed to penalise the other party on the basis of non-performance when it has not itself performed its part.

“It must first perform its part before it penalises the other party for non-performance’ (emphasis own).

“If a member of the public honestly relies on such advice and, through the spineless or inefficiency of the official, finds himself subjected to criminal penalties, the confidence of the public in their Government official will sadly be shaken; Per S v Zemura 1973 AD.”

Wood Liquor Warehouse owners said it would take they were going to proceed with the legal route if ZRP failed to release the seized alcohol and property.

“In view of the above, our client requests that all the seized items be released to them, forthwith. If they are not so released, we have strict instructions to approach the court for relief on an urgent basis at a cost to your pocket.”

According to the ZRP, a South Africa registered 30-tonne haulage truck towing two trailers which was carrying what police say was smuggled alcohol was stopped along Plumtree road.

Upon failure to provide the relevant documents, the driver of the truck fled to the Wood Liqour Warehouse in the Belmont Industrial area.

Police followed him to the warehouse where they also managed to find another assortment of alcohol.

Employees at the warehouse failed to provide liquor licences as stipulated by the law, leading to the seizure.

Alcohol worth at least US$110,000 was seized.

Police said they were trying to establish the identity of the nightclubs and liquor outlets that were purchasing alcohol from the warehouse.

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