A crack team set up for mobile money crime. . . as the fight shifts into high gear
Daniel Nemukuyu-Survey editor
An elite team of 15 experienced prosecutors has been put in place to work with seasoned investigators to develop waterproof cases and thus effectively prosecute economic saboteurs who abuse mobile money platforms to weaken the local currency.
In addition to assigning some of his senior officials, Attorney General Kumbirai Hodzi has also engaged experts from a wide range of sectors of the economy to help in technical areas where criminals use more sophisticated strategies.
The saboteurs were transferring huge sums of money from corporate bank accounts to mobile money agent lines and wholesale payment lines to buy the foreign currency offered on the streets, and many are still being sued, but even with the abolition or reduction of these systems for over more than a year, central dealers have managed to find other legitimate systems for their illegal activity.
Cartels have become authorities to set black market rates, usually without any basis on what that particular market can generate, thereby pushing up the prices of goods and services.
In an interview, Mr Hodzi said the honeymoon is now over for the corrupt cartels.
“We have put in place a team of 15 experienced prosecutors from the provinces and headed by a director.
“They are looking at violations of exchange control rules and the manipulation of mobile money platforms to attack the local currency.
“As the NPA, we treat it as serious economic sabotage because it is responsible for the economic suffering and the poor livelihoods of the citizens.
“We have seen unwarranted price hikes, inflation and a weakening currency,” he said.
Mr Hodzi said that with regard to the eight related cases already before the courts and based on huge deals during the first half of last year when the black market was sent to the stratosphere before the first ones effective restrictions, the state took a firm stand and vigorously opposed bail.
“We were very hard on the suspects and everyone was denied bail. We strongly opposed the release on bail, confirming the seriousness of the offense.
“We are now putting in more manpower to deal with these issues in addition to the other land barons. We are already in the process and the Attorney General’s office will play its role to ensure the restoration of sanity, ”he said.
National police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police have stepped up investigations into illegal mobile money transactions and all corrupt cartels will be brought to justice.
“The investigations have intensified. Those involved in sabotaging the economy by abusing mobile money platforms should know that the net is shutting down now.
“Police work with other stakeholders in government and other sectors of the economy to ensure that people engage in clean and honest businesses, businesses that promote economic growth.
“If anyone is involved, 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 transferring more than $ 1.5 billion in illegal foreign currency transactions in the first six months of last year. The transactions involved transferring huge sums of money from corporate bank accounts to mobile money agents and bulk payment lines.
Each of the eight companies transferred amounts ranging from $ 59 million to over $ 300 million through their Steward Bank accounts to dozens of EcoCash agent lines which were then used as conduits to mop up foreign currency by resellers. of the black market.
“The details are contained in court documents.
The companies and their directors were taken to court last week for violating the exchange control law.
However, they are not among the 30 individuals who were unmasked last week by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for their participation in illegal foreign currency transactions and were banned from operating bank accounts and mobile money.
According to court documents, which have now helped lift the veil on the underground world of the illegal currency market, the eight moved $ 1,511,470,476 in just under six months.
Kay Mudonhi Investments along with co-defendants Kudzai Mudonhi (34) and Judge Mahuni (29) reportedly moved $ 150 million between January 1 and June 30 last year to fund illegal purchases of foreign currency.
Vision Credit Source Pvt Ltd was jointly indicted with Takudzwa Godwin Rafemoyo (42) for illegally buying foreign currency for $ 192 million between January and June last year.
Rafemoyo opened a bank account for Vision Credit with Steward Bank before registering five separate EcoCash agent lines, which were then used as conduits to transfer the money to street shoppers.
Access Finance Pvt Ltd and Singathini Raymond Chigogwana (47) were accused of buying currencies worth $ 185 million through 12 EcoCash agent lines last year.
Isau Bwerinofa (43) was indicted along with Access Finance Pvt Ltd for using more than $ 185 million to buy foreign currency through EcoCash lines. Bwerinofa is separately indicted along with Chemmodities Trading Pvt Ltd for shipping $ 333 million on the black market between January and June of last year.
Juso Global Pvt Ltd and Judge Mahuni (29), who were arrested on September 25, are accused of transferring $ 262 million from Steward Bank accounts to their EcoCash agent lines before buying foreign currency through proxies.
Capital Profit Financial Services and Tapiwa Madzara (32) are accused of financing illicit currency purchases worth $ 59 million.
All of the defendants were denied bail when they appeared in court last week.
In May of last year, the government first suspended mobile money agent lines before banning them altogether when it became clear they were no longer needed in a largely digital economy.
At the same time, severe limits were placed on private mobile money lines, and commercial lines became one-way, capable of accepting payments without limits, so that customers could pay, but the holder of the l business needs to transfer money to their regular bank account before spending anything.
The government then stepped up investigations into how the platforms were being used to undermine the stability of local unity by setting and manipulating unregulated black market rates at whatever level the cartels wanted to create their very big profits. .
The forex black market was supported by the use of all four mobile money platforms, but EcoCash, by far the largest, was the channel of choice as it hosts over 90% of mobile transactions. Just as it is the greatest legal and lawful conduit for so many normal transactions, criminals have made it their “central hub to manipulate black market rates.”