Seized Haulage Trucks Gone Forever, Supreme Court Rules
22 November 2021
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The Supreme Court has confirmed the forfeiture of five haulage trucks smuggled into the country by a local company saying they were tainted property.

Madefit Investments (Pvt) Limited is said to have been in the habit of smuggling trucks into the country and change identities of the vehicles to assume the identities of vehicles, which would already have been registered in terms of the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act.

The offence came to light after police received information about Madefit criminal activities that would result in the offending vehicles carrying false identities, in contravention of the registration law.

Acting on this information, the police impounded seven motor vehicles from stand number 301/99 Tilco Industries, Chitungwiza, being the Madefit’s place of business, and took them for forensic examination.

The examination of the vehicles was carried out on January 10 2020 at the Criminal Investigations Department Vehicle Theft Squad in Southerton, Harare, and established that five of the seven trucks were tainted property.

The tainted commercial vehicles include four Frieghtliner horses with the following registrations numbers:

AEZ 0790

ADZ 4104

AEG 6695

ADS 0982.

The fifth one is an international truck, registration number ADZ 4880.

This prompted the Prosecutor-General’s Office represented by Chief Law Officer Mr Chris Mutangadura to approach the High Court applying for an order to confiscate the vehicles at the centre of smuggling.

In April this year, the High Court granted an application by the Prosecutor General to have the five forfeited to the State.

However, Madefit sought to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court when the permissible timeframe to note an appeal had since lapsed.

Dismissing the application for late filing of the appeal last week, Supreme Court judge Justice Tendai Uchena, ruled that Madefit’s grounds of appeal were weak.

“In the circumstances, it seems to me that the court a quo applied the law fairly and equitably in order to make an objective assessment of the motor vehicles’ liability for forfeiture and the applicant failed to prove that the decision of the court a quo is likely to be set aside if its late noting of the appeal is condoned. I am therefore of the view that the applicant has no prospects of success on appeal.

“Accordingly, it is ordered that the application be and is hereby dismissed with costs,” ruled Justice Uchena.

Mr Mutangadura, who heads the National Prosecuting Authority’s Assets Forfeiture Unit appeared for the PG while Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara represented Madefit Investments.

The application for a civil forfeiture order was brought in terms of Section 79 as read with s80 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9:24) (MLPCA).

The State’s contention was that Madefit’s five motor vehicles were tainted property and should be forfeited to the State.

The court noted that the original chassis numbers in respect of all the vehicles could not be restored even when the vehicles were subjected to the forensic examination procedure called chemical etching. Ridges, furrows or linear marks (striation marks) stood where the original chassis numbers were placed by the vehicles’ manufacturer, a testament to force having been applied to remove the original chassis numbers.

Further the court noted that despite bearing a new, and different chassis number, the vehicle now appearing as ADZ 4880 was resilient to the extent that remnants of the original chassis number, JH537341, were restored under the forensic examination.

Yet, in applying for and obtaining approval for restoration not only of the engine, but chassis number, Madefit had supplied the chassis number as IHTRLOOO85H652 998.

This meant the application for restoration of the chassis number was deceptive and the court said the company could not rely on the deception to resist forfeiture of this vehicle.- Herald