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Surprise as Lithium Mining Firm ‘Silver Bern International’ Slapped with $10k Fine for Smuggling Lithium Worth $44 Million

Chinese firms to build lithium processing plants following Export ban

Bulawayo High Court Judge Christopher Dube-Banda has imposed a $10,000 fine on local lithium mining company Silver Bern International (Private) Limited after convicting it of smuggling 96,000 metric tonnes of lithium disguised as manganese ore. Despite protests from the company, represented by Simon Gamha, the lithium was forfeited to the state.

Appearing in court under Section 385(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07], Gamha faced charges of contravening Section 3(1) of Statutory Instrument 213/22, the Base Minerals Export Control Act. The court heard that between December 21, 2022, and December 23, 2022, at Beitbridge Border Post, the company unlawfully exported 96 metric tonnes of lithium-bearing ore to South Africa without a required permit, breaching the law.

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Initially heard in the magistrate’s court, Gamha pleaded guilty before the case was referred to the high court for sentencing. The judge considered various factors in determining an appropriate sentence, emphasizing the seriousness of the crime and the need to send a clear message to society.

Judge Dube-Banda noted the deliberate attempt to deceive authorities by falsely declaring the exported material as manganese ore, highlighting the substantial quantity and value of the lithium ore involved. Despite arguments from the company’s lawyers about being first-time offenders and suffering financial losses due to the detention of trucks, the judge ruled that the company must bear the consequences of its criminal actions.

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In addition to the $10,000 fine, the judge ordered the forfeiture of the lithium ore, emphasizing the need to deter corporate entities from engaging in unlawful activities and stressing that no benefit should be derived from crime. He underscored the importance of conducting business within the bounds of the law and reaffirmed the court’s intolerance for corporate crime.

Also read: High Court Rules Against SA Fuel Company Addax Energy Demand for USD Payment

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