Car dealer stalks Zimra, 16 years on, seeks to recover US$658 844

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By Mary Taruvinga

A LOCAL car dealer has approached the High Court seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to refund ZW$30 000 000 (old currency), now reportedly equivalent to US$658 844 allegedly extorted by the tax collector during Gershem Pasi’s tenure as its Commissioner General.

The money is reportedly part of customs duty paid by the company in 2002 after Zimra officials advised the applicant, Benchman Investments, that it had paid its motor vehicles taxes using an old rate.

The company had paid ZW$6, 5 million instead of ZW$36, 5 million.

According to the application circumstances are that on June 18, 2002 the applicant purchased 30 motor vehicles from Japan.

The vehicles were shipped to Durban and arrived on July 29, 2002.

On August 2, 2002, the Ministry of Finance published General Notice 359A of 2002 and Statutory Instrument 225 of 2002 which designated the rate of Z$300 to US$1 as the selling rate for certain imported goods including motor vehicles for the purposes of the Customs and Excise Act.

The rate fixed in terms of that section is used to determine the value in local currency of goods purchased in foreign currency.

The vehicles purchased by the applicants were imported into Zimbabwe on August 5 2002.

When the applicant tried to clear the vehicles, the company’s agent was informed that their value would be assessed using the selling rate fixed by the new law.

This would have resulted in a huge and unexpected increase in the customs duty payable in respect of items covered by the new law.

High Court Judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo who heard the case at the time after an urgent chamber application by the company advised the applicants to pay the required amount on the understanding that if it wins the case Zimra would refund. Justice Hlatshwayo only delivered judgment 14 years later in 2016 but the revenue authority has since then been dodging paying back the money.

Efforts by the company to recover the money have hit a brick wall forcing it to approach the courts again seeking an order to compel Zimra to pay up.