Sunday, 3 October 2021

CRACK TEAM GOES AFTER FOREX DEALERS

A crack team of 15 experienced prosecutors has been set up to work with seasoned investigators to come up with watertight dockets and so effectively prosecute economic saboteurs abusing mobile money platforms to weaken the local currency.

Besides assigning some of his top staff, Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi has also roped in experts from a swathe of sectors of the economy to assist in technical areas where criminals use more sophisticated strategies.

The saboteurs were transferring huge amounts of money from corporate bank accounts into mobile money agent lines and bulk payment lines to buy up the foreign currency offered on the streets, and many are still being prosecuted, but even with these systems being abolished or curtailed for more than a year the central dealers have managed to find other legitimate systems for their illegal activity.

The cartels have become authorities in setting the black market rates, usually without any basis on what that particular market can generate, so pushing up prices of goods and services.

In an interview, Mr Hodzi said the honeymoon was now over for the corrupt cartels.

“We have set up a team of 15 seasoned prosecutors drawn from the provinces who are led by a director.

“They are looking at violations of the exchange control regulations and manipulation of mobile money platforms to assault the local currency.

“As NPA, we are treating it as serious economic sabotage because it has been responsible for the economic suffering and low livelihood of the citizens.

“We have seen unjustified price hikes, inflation and the weakening of the currency,” he said.

Mr Hodzi said in respect of the eight related cases already in court and based on huge transactions in the first half of last year when the black-market was sent into the stratosphere before the first effective curbs, the State took a tough stance and vigorously opposed bail.

“We were very tough on the suspects and everyone was denied bail. We strongly opposed bail, confirming the seriousness of the offence.

“We are now putting more manpower to deal with these matters in addition to the other beat of land barons. We are already in the thing and the Prosecutor General’s office will play its part to ensure restoration of sanity,” he said.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police have intensified investigations into the illegal mobile money transactions and all the corrupt cartels will be brought to book.

“Investigations have been intensified. Those involved in sabotaging the economy through abusing mobile money platforms must know that the net is now closing in.

“The police are working together with other stakeholders in Government and other sectors of the economy to ensure that people engage in clean businesses that are above board, businesses that promote economic growth.

“If anyone is implicated, the law will take its course and there are no sacred cows in this war,” he said.

Recently the bosses of eight companies were arrested for allegedly moving over $1,5 billion in illegal foreign currency deals in the first six months of last year. The deals involved transferring huge amounts of money from corporate bank accounts into mobile money agent and bulk payment lines.

Each of the eight companies moved amounts ranging from $59 million to over $300 million through their Steward Bank accounts into dozens of EcoCash agent lines that were later used as conduits to mop up foreign currency by black market dealers.

“The details are contained in court documents.

The companies and their directors were hauled to court last week charged with contravening the Exchange Control Act.

However, they are not among the 30 individuals who were last week outed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for their involvement in illegal foreign currency deals and were banned from operating bank and mobile money accounts. Herald

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