One of the nine Malawians who were arrested by police in Beitbridge in August for operating a well-orchestrated car smuggling syndicate was yesterday jailed for five years.
Eight others are expected to stand trial today. Seven top-of-the-range vehicles worth R5 million were recovered from the suspects following their arrest. The cars were being smuggled from South Africa through an illegal crossing point along the Limpopo River.
The seven were arrested in and around Beitbridge town in an operation dubbed "Ibvani Madini (Get out of the Waters)". Juma Charles Moyo (26) was convicted on his own plea of guilty when he appeared before Matabeleland South regional magistrate Mr Joseph Maveza.
The other suspects are: Aboo Bennelo Jussabi (31), Lee Shas Ajiba (29), Joe Khalid Kazembe (34), Collins Musa (35), Jali Mwsifa (32), Mohammed Idrus Laudon (28), Juma Afiki (34) and Abdu Khasim.
The suspects are all being charged with theft of a motor vehicle and also contravening a section of the Customs and Excise Act (Smuggling).
Theft charges against Moyo were withdrawn before plea due to the complainant's lack of co-operation.
Police recovered one of the vehicles following a shootout with the suspect near Bubi Village along the Beitbridge Masvingo road. The smuggled vehicles included two Toyota Fortuners, one Nissan Navara, Toyota Raider, a Toyota Vigo, Toyota Hilux and a ToyotaCorolla all worth R5 million.
South African Police have confirmed that four cars were stolen from Durban, while another Fortuner was stolen in Limpopo Province.
Zimbabwean police have also engaged Interpol to conduct investigations over the vehicles market in Malawi.
Charges are that the cars would be driven across Zimbabwe using fake registration books, vehicle identification documents, fake temporary import permits and ignition keys. It is understood that the suspects had been working in cahoots with employees of some vehicle tracking companies in South Africa.