HARARE — Terence Mukupe, the former deputy finance minister, has been sentenced to an effective three-year jail term and fined US$12,780 by High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero for smuggling 138,000 liters of diesel without paying duty.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of US$2,780 or face two more years in prison if he fails to do so.
Mukupe’s initial sentence was three and a half years, but six months were suspended on condition of good behavior.
Mukupe’s three accomplices, truck drivers Same Kapisoriso, Joseph Taderera, and Leonard Mudzuto, received similar sentences, as the judge ruled that their offense was premeditated.
Mukupe and his accomplices were convicted on November 8 for unlawfully importing diesel destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo, but replacing the diesel with water in Zimbabwe.
The judge expressed concern over the fact that the trio spent a long time waiting for their trial to start.
Justice Chikowero said he did not understand why the State chose to subject the trio to such delays and anxiety, and said the prosecution should have expedited their trial.
He said if the trial had been conducted earlier, the outcome would have been different.
“The anguish and anxiety was akin to some kind of mental prison. Had they been brought to trial in or about 2017, the sentence would have been remarkably different… It was common cause that it was not the accused who had paid the fine. While the financial prejudice to Zimra was cured, the accused cannot take credit for that,” said Justice Chikowero.
He said Mukupe had abused his political influence and that the fuel was intended for resale or some other business purpose.
“The first accused (Mukupe) flaunted his political clout…Had the fuel been recovered, the State indicated that they would have applied for its forfeiture,” said the judge.
“The value of the goods was substantial. The offense was committed by an organized criminal group. It was extra-territorial. Countering extra-territorial criminal activity is not the obligation of one country. This court will be mindful of this to deter not only like-minded Zimbabweans but foreigners.”
The four were facing fraud charges and an alternative charge of contravening section 174(1) of the Customs and Excise Act (making a false declaration).
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) proved that the quartet smuggled a tanker filled with 138,979 liters of diesel into Zimbabwe without paying duty in 2017.
They crossed into the country via Forbes Border Post on January 26, 2017, driving tankers from Beira, Mozambique, which were earmarked for the DRC.
However, a physical examination at Chirundu Border Post on January 31 revealed that the tankers contained water and not diesel.
The tanker was intercepted by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials, leading to the arrest of the four men.