By Rex Mphisa
THE Supreme Court yesterday dismissed claims by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) that it was owed $100 million by Econet Wireless through tax evasions.
The curtain closed on a near 10-year battle between Zimra and Econet, wherein the tax authority claimed that the latter owed millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.
A panel of judges, led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, ruled in favour of Econet Wireless whose lawyer Tawanda Nyambirai yesterday said it was a victory for victims of cyber-bullying.
“Zimra had garnished Econet’s bank accounts to the tune of $61 million in December 2013. There was a media frenzy with allegations that Econet had evaded duty and amounts of up to $300 million were mentioned,” Nyambirai said.
“Rather than fight the allegations in the media, Econet applied to the High Court, which struck down $47 million of the amount claimed by Zimra.”
He said, not satisfied with this outcome, Econet further appealed to the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court bench, led by the Chief Justice (Malaba), (ruled) in favour of Econet. I do not see this as a victory for Econet alone. It is a victory for all victims of cyber-bullying. Econet was tried and condemned in the social media! Any humble protestations of innocence were drowned in baseless abuse and condemnation where the basic principles of innocent until proved guilty were thrown out of the window.”
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“Some of these attitudes are caused by the economic hardships that we continue to face as a nation. I can only wish for the speedy recovery of our economy and the restoration of values of integrity and respect for the rights of others,” Nyambirai said from South Africa yesterday.
The dismissed case started after a shipping agent who, following allegations of fraud, lost business from Econet. He then decided to turn a whistle-blower in what he alleged was fraudulent importation of several other items that include base station equipment.
The whistleblower also made reports to Zimra alleging that Econet under-invoiced its imports resulting in the tax authority slamming the communication company with a bill of almost $100 million.
Econet approached the courts and pursued the matter all the way to the apex Court.
Yesterday’s ruling established that Econet, the single largest taxpayer in the country, did not owe Zimra any money.