Crime and Courts

Authorities arrest 224 forex dealers, 90 bank accounts frozen in bid to protect ZiG integrity

Police have so far arrested 224 illegal money changers in a blitz that has also seen the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) freezing 90 bank accounts.

Apart from freezing bank accounts, the FIU has also fined more than 40 people who have been found on the wrong side of the law, chiefly violating the Exchange Control Act.

The police, working closely with the FIU, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, have been targeting illegal money changers in the aftermath of the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency early last month.

Money changers have been a menace on the country’s streets, flagrantly violating Section 14(1) of the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act and the Exchange Control Act, which criminalises illegal dealings in foreign currency.

In an interview, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, said over 200 illegal money changers had been arrested.

“A total of 224 forex dealers have been arrested around the country, and those who were caught will be prosecuted. We will not give a specific timeframe for when this operation will end, the exercise is ongoing to bring sanity into the economy,” he said.

The money changers have been accused of sabotaging the country’s economy through their illicit financial dealings, which have been detrimental to Zimbabwe’s recovery efforts.

Asst Comm Nyathi also dismissed social media reports that the police were supervising large retail shops.

“We would like to dismiss social media reports that police are monitoring supermarkets. We urge the nation to ignore those social media reports,” he said.

FIU Director General Mr Oliver Chiperesa said they were playing a supporting role, investigating the financial transactions of those arrested and freezing their bank accounts.

“Many money changers have been arrested with several bank cards, mostly belonging to third parties. The FIU has frozen dozens of accounts linked to such cards and is analysing the transactions.

“The FIU also works with banks to analyse transactions across all banking services daily

to identify red flags and patterns of illegal dealing in the parallel market, among other financial transgressions,” he said.

Mr Chiperesa also revealed that the operation is also targeting traders who are either refusing to accept ZiG or accepting ZiG at parallel market rates.

Money changers, who had become a permanent feature on the streets of Harare and bus termini around the country, have since vanished but appear to have devised new strategies to continue operating in the shadows.

A snap survey carried out by The Herald yesterday showed a significant decline in the number of illegal money changers operating in the Central Business District (CBD) and surrounding areas.

The ZiG currency was introduced by the RBZ Governor, Dr John Mushayavanhu, when he presented his first Monetary Policy Statement on April 5.

The Governor expressed confidence that the new currency would turn the tables against the black market, adding that it would not crumble under the weight of the US dollar.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube recently reaffirmed Government’s commitment to deal with those who are undermining the new currency, saying law enforcement agencies should impose heavy fines for those that are trading in parallel markets. _ Herald

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