TWO Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing criminal abuse of office charges after they allegedly demanded a bribe from a businessman who had prejudiced government of over $6 million in unpaid taxes.
Zimra chief Investigating officer Gumede Tafara (41) and investigation officer Obrie Tozivepi (41) were not asked to plead when they appeared before Harare magistrate Milton Serima.
They were remanded to December 10 on $200 bail apiece and ordered to surrender their passports. The court also ordered them to report once a week at the Criminal Investigations Department (Serious Frauds) until finalisation of the matter.
The pair’s lawyer, Admire Rubaya told the court that his clients were illegally detained beyond the statutory 48 hours following their arrest.
He said he wrote to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and the Prosecutor-General Johannes Tobaiwa’s Office so that they could be released, but in vain.
“Despite our spirited efforts they remained in custody,” Rubaya said.
“We reserve the right to sue the police officers that were instrumental (in the illegal detention) and now the State is seeking to perpetuate this illegality.”
Prosecutor Sebastian Mutizirwa conceded that the pair was illegally detained and assured the court that the matter would be investigated.
He alleged that Tafara and Tozivepi committed the offence between March and November 2014 at Zimra offices at Kurima House in Harare.
He told the court that in March 2014 , the suspects raided the offices of businessman Owen Murumbi and accused him of tax evasion.
They allegedly confiscated company files and computers purporting that they wanted to conduct an audit. Murumbi owns Megalink (Pvt) Ltd, Front Comm (Pvt) Ltd and Premier Tobacco.
They allegedly raised a tax bill of $1 500 000 which they presented to Murumbi as outstanding taxes before engaging one Takanayi Mureyi to negotiate with Murumbi on their behalf to reduce the tax bill.
It is alleged that Mureyi was given $40 000 and a Range Rover which he handed over to the suspects as a bribe.
When the suspects learnt that their superiors were now aware of the case, they allegedly forwarded some documents to the audit section where a fresh audit was carried out. It was discovered that Murumbi had prejudiced the government of $6 764 868.77.