ZRA, Lands officials in forgery scam

Five people including two Chinese nationals have been arrested on allegation of using forged Zambia Revenue Authority and Ministry of Lands documents that allowed them to harvest and export timber.

The five suspects were arrested separately in Lusaka, Serenje and Siavonga for attempting to smuggle timber out of the country.

Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection permanent secretary Inutu Suba said officers from the ministry have seized some of the documents the people were found with.

Ms Suba said the preliminary findings of the investigations have shown that the ZRA and forestry department officers are involved in the illegal timber trade.

“Our investigations in Siavonga, Chirundu and Serenje are pointing to officers within forestry department and also ZRA as having been involved.

“What we have done so far is that we have collected the documents they were found with. We have an officer in Serenje on the ground who is bringing these documents from the forestry and ZRA,” she said.

Ms Suba said the ministry was investigating the matter to establish the source of the documentation so that necessary action could be taken.

She said during the operation in Serenje in which one person was arrested, the driver abandoned his truck and run away.

“Ironically, the person who was arrested is the son of the district forestry officer,” the permanent secretary said.

Ms Suba said stamped documents from ZRA which truck drivers carried showed different description of items loaded and yet they were logs of mukula trees.

“We don’t know whether these documents are genuine or they are falsified. We are yet to establish that.

“In Siavonga, the documents were carried in separate vehicle accompanying the trucks, and they showed that what was being carried was cotton, and yet they were mukula trees in the trucks,” she said.

Ms Suba said two Chinese nationals were arrested in Lusaka on Tuesday, while two Zambians were arrested in Siavonga and another in Serenje.

She said two other trucks with Zimbabwean plate numbers were intercepted in Siavonga as they were heading towards the border.

“In Lusaka province, we still have issues of Chinese nationals being caught with illegally harvested timber. On Tuesday we caught two they are appealing in court tomorrow (Friday),” Ms Suba said.