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Court name
Supreme Court of Zambia
Case number
Appeal 6 of 2016

African Beverages Limited v People (Appeal 6 of 2016) [2016] ZMSC 219 (11 November 2016);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2016] ZMSC 219
Case summary:

Zambia Revenue Authority - seizure of goods - jurisdiction of Magistrate Court

Headnote and holding:

The Appellant, together with its clearing agent, were charged in the Subordinate Court with two counts of false representations under the Customs and Excise Duty Act, Chapter 322 of the Laws of Zambia. In the first count, it was alleged that the Appellant and its clearing agent falsely represented to the Zambia Revenue Authority that a consignment of assorted drinks imported by the Appellant were non-alcoholic when in fact not. It was alleged that this enabled the Appellant to evade paying customs duties. In the second count it was alleged that the Appellant and its agent falsely represented to the Zambia Revenue Authority that the Appellant had imported 1 970 cases of assorted drinks when in fact the cases were 2 764. At the end of the trial, the Appellant and its agent were acquitted. The trial court granted the Appellant an order for the release of the cases of beverages that were in the custody of the Zambia Revenue Authority. The application by the Respondent to set the order aside was unsuccessful. The Respondent appealed against the acquittal to the High Court and obtained an order staying execution of the order for the release of the beverages. The appeal was dismissed, whereupon the Appellant renewed its application before the High Court for the drinks to be released. The High Court refused the application.

Held

  1. The goods were seized by the Zambia Revenue Authority in exercise of its powers under the Customs and Excise Act, Chapter 322 of the Laws of Zambia. The Seizure Notice explained what process a person affected by such notice should adopt in redeeming those goods. One of the modes of redeeming them was to institute civil legal proceedings.
  2. When the Appellant applied to the Magistrate Court for the release of the beverages that were listed on the Notice, that court should have realised that the beverages were the subject of a process under the Customs and Excise Act and therefore, had no jurisdiction to interfere with that process.
  3. The only order the Magistrate was entitled to make at the end of the trial, in terms of section 355 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia was to release them back to the Zambia Revenue Authority, who had the statutory right to possession thereof by virtue of the Notice, in order for the process under the Customs and Excise Act to take its course.
  4. The order granted by the trial Magistrate to release the beverages seized by the Zambia Revenue Authority was erroneous, and the High Court was on firm ground when it set it aside.
Coram
Phiri, JS
Hamaundu, JS
Kabuka, JS