Covidgate – Let the denials begin

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Tiri Masawi

Windhoek – Jaji Investments, a shelf company in the eye of a storm over an allegedly dodgy deal to ship COVID-19 test kits to Zimbabwe, is being investigated by Namibian authorities for alleged tax evasion.

The tax evasion stems from the supply of 4,500 test kits for which Jaji Investments, which is registered in Namibia, apparently declared zero returns for.

Jaji Investments was reportedly paid US$66 375 (approximately R1.122 million) by Zimbabwe’s government after allegedly sourcing the equipment for US$300 (approx. R5,100).

Apart from the alleged huge price inflation and possible tax evasion, the deal has also torched a storm after Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, on April 20 claimed the testing kits were a donation from the government of Namibia.

Namibia’s government has denied making any such donation, and is now investigating Jaji Investments, which is owned by Dr Prince Mushininga, who works in a private medical practice in Windhoek.

Jaji Investments was registered in Namibia in 2015 and its directors supplied a non-operational Namibian bank account to Zimbabwean officials when structuring the deal that has come under scrutiny. This has raised questions as to how the payment for the testing kits was done, and has prompted officials in Windhoek to open a probe.

Namibia Finance Ministry spokesperson Tonateni Shidhdhu last week said of Jaji Investments, “I can confirm that the company is a registered taxpayer in Namibia … The ministry is further assessing some information regarding export activities of Jaji Investments.”

He said the ministry would make its findings public.

 

Denials

 

Dr Mushininga has denied grossly inflating the cost of the testing kits, saying Chinese suppliers had actually understated thee price.

“I am tired of journalists calling me. I have a lot of things to do and this is just a ploy to link this (deal) to innocent politicians in Zimbabwe,” Dr Mushininga told this writer.

Then via mobile messaging application WhatsApp, he added: “Let me address the question of the 300.00 USD that are showing in the airway bill documents (sic). As you may know, the airway bill is furnished by the manufacturer (in this case, the Chinese company), when they ship the supplies that I have bought to send them to me.

“I had not noticed that they changed the value, but I can only imagine that my Chinese supplier issued a wrong price on purpose so they would pay less for shipping.

“However, I can guarantee you that I did not buy 4,500 rapid test kits for a mere 300 USD. I wish it were so! That money does not even begin to cover the cost of shipping all the kits to Zimbabwe. “Also, you ask where I get the money? How I fund my company is not really your concern, but mostly with my savings from my work as a medical doctor and then profits from other deals and transactions that I have carried out in the past years (sic).”

He also said, “I will not discuss my commercial margins (i.e., profits), or how much I actually paid to the Chinese supplier per unit (this is sensitive information that could harm them if revealed, because their competitors could use it).

“However, I trust that you understand the basic mechanism of trade: you buy something and then sell it for a higher price, and as long as the buying party agrees to the price you are charging, everyone is happy.

“And in a contract with the government you always need to be competitive with pricing, because others will (also be trying to get the contract).”

Dr Mushininga said he was a clean businessman and had never engaged in illegal activities in Namibia.

 

More denials

 

The Zimbabwean doctor is not the only one who has been driven into issuing a stream of denials because of the saga.

Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry has tried to deny ever announcing the supposed Jaji donation, despite Minister Mutsvangwa’s April 20 statement.

Higher up, the First Family has also denied having a close relationship with Jaji’s director, even though pictures are circulating on social media of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife lounging with Dr Mushininga.

Indications are that the Jaji deal had the blessing of Zimbabwe’s Health Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo.

Dr Moyo was arrested last month on charges stemming from alleged corrupt deals related to supply of COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment.

One of the deals in question involves a company called Drax International. Delish Nguwaya, the company’s front man, was also pictured being cosy with Zimbabwe’s First Family. He too has been arrested.

The mess around the Jaji deal and how Zimbabwean officials had claimed Namibia’s government was involved has triggered a response from Windhoek’s diplomatic machinery.

Namibian International Relations Ministry executive director, Ambassador Selma Ashipala-Masavyi, last week said: “The Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation has been following, with concern, persistent media reports attributing to the government of the Republic of Namibia, a purported donation of 4,499 rapid COVID-19 testing kits, to the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

“Following these tendentious media reports, the Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation, through the Namibian Embassy in Zimbabwe, sought clarity on the matter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

“In a formal response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe informed that the allegations of the alleged donation of 4,499 testing kits from Namibia to Zimbabwe were unfounded and erroneous, and apologised for any inconveniences the reports might have caused.

“The ministry would like to reiterate the assurances to the Namibian public that there was no such donation made by the government of the Republic of Namibia to the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe.”

 

And more denials

On the issue of the tax probe by authorities in Windhoek, Dr Mushininga brushed off allegations of wrongdoing by Jaji Investments.

“As for the tax situation, what document are you referring to? That wrong invoice that was issued by the Chinese company only for use in the (airway bill)?

“Well, once again I will confirm that everything is done in compliance with the law. And FYI (for your information), COVID-19 supplies in Zim benefit from a tax rebate. And you are not my accountant or my auditor, so I will not share any documents with you.

“Furthermore, I regret to inform you that this conversation is now over. You have shown that you clearly have a negative intention with the piece you are working on.

“You already have a story in your mind (one of corruption) and just want to find evidence to support it, while discarding everything else.

“I understand that you may have an agenda to publish a piece that will harm some political figure in Zimbabwe, and I will not be caught in the crossfire of your biased journalism,” he said.

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