By Beatrice Chabaya

Three Copperbelt-based companies have been reported to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) for alleged massive fraudulent exports of copper concentrates disguised as low value ore, occasioning a revenue loss of approximately US$18 million to the government.

Sources within ZRA have disclosed that the scheme is bigger than the one earlier reported involving K82 million, as millions of dollars are being lost by the Treasury through the suspected exports of copper concentrates declared as ore, which has no commercial value.

The revenue authority is currently looking for ways to deal with the unearthed fraudulent scheme that involves colossal sums of money.

The ZRA sources say some of their colleagues at the ports of entry help facilitate the exports of disguised minerals at exit points.

The sources disclosed that some members of the mining mineral processing community have lodged complaints before the Commissioner General against a group of local companies that obtained low value export permits m and utilized them to fraudulently export high value material (Copper concentrates).

“As we speak, these companies have continued with the fraudulent export of Copper Concentrates which they declare as low value ore,” the sources said.

They alleged that Pillarwise lnvestments Limited, Lamwaka lnvestments Limited and
Mulaphi Logistics Limited had between December, 2023 and January, 2024, exported an estimated 400 trucks combined,
amounting to around $18 million in lost revenue.

According to the export permits seen, the three companies have been declaring copper content value at 3 per cent of Copper Ore instead of the normal content average of 20% on Concentrate.

It is alleged that the alleged minimal declaration by the three companies is a tax evasion ploy that seeks to discretely export concentrates.

The sources further say the claimed 3% valuation is not commercially viable at the current market value and equally not feasible for export as costs for taking out the commodity are more than the revenue for such low value minerals.

The sources further allege that some ZRA officers have been assisting the companies to ‘smuggle’ copper concentrates out of the country.

“Some of these companies are claiming to be close to the ruling party and they in fact work using the party’s name and this can explain the disregard for the laws,” the sources said.

However, Pillarwise Investment Ltd company has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying it is merely a transport and car rental business when the brief profile on one of the contact numbers lists mining as one of the company’s areas of focus.

When contacted seeking clarification on the allegations, Jeff Msoni, the logistics manager at Pillarwise, said the company pays taxes to ZRA.

Msoni further demanded information about the source of the allegations and insisted on legal representation before further asking: “do you know who owns these companies you’ve mentioned?”

Dinah Nyirenda, another representative from Pillarwise Company Limited, refused to comment when pressed for details.

Pillarwise Limited’s lawyer identified as Leonard Tembo also denied the company’s involvement in mining activities.

He said documents showing that Pillarwise was involved in the mining business are not real.

“We are not obliged to disclose our business activities,” he said and asked the journalist to “leave the companies alone”.

Lamwaka lnvestments Limited and
Mulaphi Logistics Limited could not be reached for comment as their office lines were constantly engaged.

ZRA Corporate Communications manager Oliver Nzala said he was unaware of the complaints made by mining stakeholders against the three companies.

However, Nzala assured that ZRA’s mines department would investigate whether the companies were registered taxpayers.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the Ministry of Mines proved futile, as the permanent secretary’s phone was not unreachable, leaving unanswered questions about the alleged tax evasion by the three companies.

And Billy Chewe, the director who issued the mineral export permits to the three companies, could also not be reached as his mobile phone was switched off while a call to his office did not yield any positive response.

Last week, ZRA said it had unearthed a suspected tax evasion scheme involving over K82 million.

Nzala alleged that Mash Rock Mining was suspected to have been misclassifying locally procured copper as imported in order to avoid payment of mineral royalty estimated at K82.6 million.