The consignment being transported from the port of Dar es Salaam was seized at 5 pm on Saturday as it was being unpacked from a truck at a popular fish shop in the city.
Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) acting Mbeya regional manager Demson Ngate told reporters here that the bust had been facilitated by a tip-off they received.
“We asked for documents related to the consignment, and the papers showed that the load was on transit to Zambia and not the local market,” Ngate said.
He explained that according to their subsequent inspection, the official TRA seal had been removed from the consignment before it was unloaded.
Furthermore, a tracking system that would have allowed authorities to establish the location of the vehicle online had also been disabled.
According to Ngate, tampering with the TRA seal and the tracking system were serious offences under transnational transit of goods laws.
“Technically the consignment still belongs to the (government) customs department, and it was not supposed to be touched before reaching its final destination,” the TRA official said.
Two trucks belonging to a prominent Mbeya businessman that were being used to unload the fish have also been impounded, he added.
A quick count established that the consignment comprised 2,579 cartons of fish weighing 10 kilograms each, which in total is equivalent to more than 25 tonnes.
According to Ngate, the consignment was valued at more than 30 million/- and had it entered the local market, the government would have lost about 14m/- in taxes.
He said all those involved in the matter will be compelled to pay all due taxes plus other penalties amounting to around 50m/-
The Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) regional manager for Mbeya, Rodney Alananga, said even if the tax issue is eventually cleared up, the consignment still won’t be approved for sale in the country immediately.
“Because the consignment was destined for another country, we (TFDA) did not carry out necessary tests to ascertain the safety of the fish,” Alananga said, adding:
“So we will not allow them to sell the fish to consumers until we do the tests as required by law.”
TFDA officials took samples of fish from the consignment for tests in the regional laboratory, just in case the shipment does not proceed to Zambia.
An official from the fisheries department stationed at Tunduma on the border with Zambia, Francis Mpatama, said normally his department is notified whenever fish products pass through on transit.
He said although he was supposed to have been notified about the consignment, he was actually in the dark until it was caught.
In his assessment, Mpatama noted several discrepancies in the packaging of the consignment, saying the packaging materials did not indicate the name of the producer, place of origin, name of transporter, date of packaging, and expiry date.