Maputo — The Mozambican Tax Authority (AT) on Tuesday dismantled a clandestine factory in the central city of Beira, which was illegally manufacturing what the labels claimed was gin.
The previously unheard-of “Gin Zambeze” claimed to contain 43 per cent alcohol by volume, and was found in bottles each containing 275 millilitres of the liquid.
The AT stumbled across the factory because a vehicle stopped at a check point in Nhamatanda district was found to contain 300 packages of bottles of “Gin Zambeze”. Many of the bottles did not bear the fiscal stamps that are obligatory for all wines and spirits.
The drinks were on their way from Beira to Maringue district, where they would have been sold.
The AT followed up the seizure of the truck with a raid on the factory in Beira, which was operating out of a warehouse. Local residents told the independent television station STV that the factory appeared only to operate at night.
One man told STV that he saw “empty vehicles entering the warehouse and then leaving loaded with drinks. I was curious and approached. Inside I saw only four Chinese. I alerted my neighbours and later the authorities”.
STV filmed inside the warehouse, and the process of making the gin and filling the bottles seemed primitive and unhygienic. A Chinese national, believed to be the owner, refused to give STV his name, said he knew nothing about the gin, and blamed “my friend” (also unnamed).
The AT raid resulted in the seizure of 4,000 bottles filled with gin, and 80,000 labelled but empty bottles. All the equipment used to make the drink was also seized.
“This is a case of an assault against public health, tax evasion and contraband”, declared the AT's Sofala provincial delegate, Raimundo Mapanzene. “These crimes will be dealt with by the customs court”.
He said the AT was in contact with the health authorities to assess the risk to human health from “Gin Zambeze”. “For now, we are urging people not to consume this drink”, said Mapanzene.
This is the third case in Sofala in less than a year of a clandestine drinks factory involving Chinese citizens. The other cases were in late 2017 in Beira, and in the Mafambisse administrative post, in Dondo district.