6 December 2012

Zimbabwe: ZRP Denies Contracts With Ticoz

Police have distanced themselves from a local private investigations company, TICOZ Protection Services, which is reportedly at the centre of corporate espionage targeting local cigarette manufacturers.

This comes in the wake of claims that TICOZ works with the Police Border Control Unit and Zimra officials whom it supplies with information to make arrests on those it would have investigated for smuggling cigarettes.

In an interview yesterday, police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said they had no contracts with any organisation to help them do their job.

"Ours is a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order in the country," said Asst Comm Charamba.

"We don't have contracts with other organisations to do our job. Our work cannot be diluted by other organisations.

"We do not seek help from other places to execute our mandate. We are very capable of doing our job."

Police are investigating economic espionage involving R100 million worth of cigarettes local firms reportedly lost to armed syndicates in transit to South Africa over the past years.

This follows reports that local firms - Savanna Tobacco, Breco (Fodya Private Ltd) Trednet, Cutrag, Kingdom and Chelsea -- lost their products to organised armed gangs in South Africa.

TICOZ has a working contract with a South African-based security firm Forensic Security Services, the company which reportedly contracted it to spy on indigenous cigarette manufacturers.

The information was used in the hijackings of export cigarettes in transit.

TICOZ denies any involvement in possible espionage in Zimbabwe.

"Our contract (with FSS) is based on investigating the smuggling of cigarettes. We work with police (CID) Border Control Unit and Zimra officials," said TICOZ operations director Mr Tarwireyi Tirivavi recently.

Ironically, one of the TICOZ directors Cosygene Dekeya and the company's employee Edmore Muronzereyi are facing prosecution for espionage.

Dekeya, who had initially been charged with a lesser crime of contravening the Private Investigations and Security Guards (Control) Act, will be freshly charged after Mbare Area prosecutor Mr Austin Muziwi said his case bordered on espionage.

Muronzereyi is not off the hook after he was recently acquitted on charges of impersonation following his arrest at Savanna Tobacco where he was allegedly spying on the firms' operations.

He was found in possession of a Zimbabwe National Army identity card at the time of his arrest.

Investigations by The Herald show that Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa works with FSS to monitor Zimbabwean cigarette manufacturers whose brands are giving their South African counterparts stiff competition.

FSS is headed by Stephen Botha, a former apartheid military supremo and his business partners - Craig Bell-Roberts and Ian McDemid.

The trio is alleged to be the brains behind the under cover operations which has spread its tentacles in the entire Sadc region.

Local firms also accused the British American Tobacco of engaging in unclean business practices through TISA.

President Mugabe last week expressed concern over allegations that BAT was collaborating with South African tobacco firms to engage in corporate espionage targeting local cigarette manufacturers.

He warned that individuals and companies involved would face the full wrath of law.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces hinted that police could have been corruptly involved in the scam.

BAT Zimbabwe refuted the espionage allegations.

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