A Bulawayo man whose toy collection was seized by customs after he had failed to produce evidence that the toys had been properly cleared won back his collection when Judge Cheda ruled in his favour.
CID officers, accompanied by a customs officer, searched Rajnikant Pragji’s house in Kumalo in July 1987 and seized a number of toys.
Pragji said he started the collection in 1970 and most of these were classic and vintage cars from 1937. He has six such cars. In addition to the normal size cars he also collected classic and vintage car toys, whisky and miniature bottles of different brandies.
When his son, Darren attained 10 years, Pragji handed over his collection of toys to him and Darren added more toys to the collection.
Pragji said the customs officer took away the toys because he said they were for commercial use. He said he tried to explain to the customs officer that the toys were a collection of his son but the officer was arrogant and did not want to listen or reason with him.
Darren confirmed to the court that he was given the collection by his father and went on to add to it. He identified most of the toys and was able to state the various places from which the toys were purchased in local shops.
He also identified the toys that came form outside the country and that they were brought by relatives as gifts.
The customs officer said he had seized the toys because Pragji could not produce any evidence of how some of them had got into the country since they were of foreign origin.
Judge Cheda said looking at the toys, which were brought to court, it was clear that some of them were still new or were kept in their original condition, while a good number had been used.
If the items were for resale, one would have found a large number of items of the same type. This was not the case. Very few, if any, of the items were duplicated at all, he said.
He said it did not appear reasonable that if a person bought a present for someone, that someone should require from the importer, and retain for ever, proof of importation or customs clearance of such small gifts like a toy or a pen.
“In any case,” Judge Cheda said, “it was conceded that some small items of this type could be brought in lawfully without having to be declared at all.”
He said it was also not reasonable that one should still have a till slip for a toy bought from a local shop seven years before.
The judge said Darren’s familiarity with the toys and the ability to explain where the toys had come from and their models and names would not have been possible if the items had just been brought in for resale and kept for that purpose by his father.
“I am satisfied by the evidence of the plaintiff and his son that the items concerned were collected as a hobby and were not brought in for commercial purposes,” Judge Cheda said.
“Accordingly they are not items that would attract duty. Neither can they be said to be items involved in the commission of an offence, or liable for duty.”
He also said it was clear that the customs officer did not apply his mind to the items concerned. There was no evidence of him examining or selecting and leaving behind even those items that were obviously locally obtained. He merely collected everything.
A close examination of the items would have resulted in some being released immediately before the seizure.
He therefore ordered the controller of customs to pay the court costs.