Sunday, May 26, 2024

CDEDI gives MBS 7 days to recall uncertified, expired Ceasar cigarettes

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By IOMMIE CHIWALO
The Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives CDEDI has expressed worry over influx of expired, uncertified, counterfeit and illegal products on the local market which is posing danger to lives.

According to CDEDI press release dated April 4, 2024, the current situation is due to the fact that unscrupulous business people with connections to foreigners are colluding with unpatriotic citizens working in government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to break the law willy-nilly.

A statement signed by CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, says the situation is worrisome because while majority are needlessly being over taxed, those politically connected, and entities that ordinarily are supposed to pour more into the tax basket are being spared or protected by some elements at Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the ruling elites and other state entities for personal gains.

Namiwa has cited an example of Credible Investments Limited which is proven contravening MRA exercise tax stamps regulations by producing Caesar red without stamp and expiry date.

The CDEDI Boss has also disclosed that the company in question is importing Viking red cigarettes bearing Zambia Revenue Authority exercise tax stamps implying that the product is illegal and worse still MRA is collecting nothing for the Malawian public purse from the sales of the products.

As if the tax fraud is not enough, CDEDI has also established that Credible Investments Limited uses Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) pre-certifications codes whose information traces to South Africa and that cigarettes manufactured in Lilongwe are labeled and sold as products made in South Africa.

CDEDI, has therefore, also notified the MBS to investigate the matter through demanding of an explanation and recall from the local market of all expired, uncertified, counterfeit and illegal products.

On unfair Trade and competition, Namiwa disclosed that Credible Investments Limited is using a low price bait to make its products selling as hot cakes to unsuspecting consumers but his organisation has already informed Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) to investigate the matter whereby a brick of Caesar Red cigarettes are pegged at K9, 500 but the often expired products are selling at K6, 000 per brick only to attract distributors and retailers.

“Regrettably such unscrupulous traders prey on low income earners by selling them loose cigarettes since they cannot afford the whole packet which has crucial details about the product they are consuming and it is irrefutable fact that a lot of chemicals are involved in cigarettes production thereby making it a double health risk to consumers puffing expired products.

Namiwa has since implored MRA, MBS, CfTC and Immigration Department to act according to mandates conferred upon them by their respective Acts of establishment to stop exposing Malawians to needless danger of puffing expired cigarettes and the irregular Trading practices by Credible Investments Limited.

However, MRA has refused to disclose tax records of Credible Investments Limited as demanded by CDEDI on grounds that such information is confidential.

In a statement signed by MRA information Officer Dorothy Mataya, such information is only accessible with taxpayer’s consent as provided under Section 6 of the Taxation Act.

“Confidentiality granted with respect to taxpayer information under these laws and the obligation by persons employed by the Authority to maintain confidentiality of taxpayer information as stipulated under section 24 of the MRA Act, reassures taxpayers that their personal and commercial information disclosed to the Authority for tax purposes is protected against unauthorised disclosure by the Authority to third parties. For the reasons enunciated above, we cannot comply with your request to provide information but have taken note of the allegations raised and will investigate accordingly,” reads the statement from the MRA dated March 28, 2024.

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