The Sunday Mail
Deputy News Editor
CRIMINAL cartels responsible for sabotaging the Zimbabwe dollar in its infancy last year through the creation of “phantom money” and funding illicit financial transactions via mobile money platforms will soon have their day in court with authorities now finalising dockets to arraign them for prosecution.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that prosecutors at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are preparing arraignment papers for several high-profile corporates and individuals believed to have been behind the parallel market trade in foreign currency which severely weakened the local currency.
The magistrates court last year granted police a warrant of search and seizure to enable investigators to look into suspected money laundering activities through a mobile platform owned by one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies.
The warrant was later stayed by the High Court, threatening to disrupt investigations into the alleged illicit activities.
In an interview to mark Zimbabwe’s Independence Day, President Mnangagwa said authorities were aware of the culprits behind sabotaging the Zimbabwe dollar, adding that they will soon be brought to account.
Prosecutor General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi told The Sunday Mail that a multi-agency investigation into
the illicit financial transactions has shown that “phantom money” was being used to sabotage the local unit.
“The other thing we need to know is that our inter-agency approach has helped with the stabilisation of the currency,” said Mr Hodzi.
“You are aware that the Zimbabwe dollar has been very stable for nearly a year now.
“That was result to a large extent of our co-operation with the monetary authorities like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit and also other agencies like the CID and special agencies mandated to fight serious economic crime.
“We are preparing and we have prepared cases against persons who were manipulating the mobile money platforms including the owners and also the agents who were carrying out the shenanigans attacking the stability of our currency.
“That has to a large extent helped in bringing about stabilisation of the currency.”
Asked whether the alleged masterminds will be arraigned before the courts, Mr Hodzi said: “They are coming. There are cases that have been prepared.
“Both the owners of the mobile money platforms and the persons who were being used to create phantom money, they are going to be brought before the courts.”
In the Independence Day interview, President Mnangagwa described the saboteurs as “sharks”.
He said: “We had no currency, our currency had collapsed years back, and there is no country that can develop and grow its economy on the basis of another country’s currency.
“But to move away from that and create our own currency, it was very painful.
“So we had to have measures to deal with the financial services sector in order to reach where we wanted to reach but to do so we had to fight financial sharks in the financial services sector.
“And I am happy to say up to today perhaps we are about 40 to 50 percent in fighting those financial sharks.
“Fortunately, we are now wiser than we were at the beginning, we now know whom we are fighting and who is behind them.
“This helps us bring the correct instruments to deal with the financial services sector for it to serve this country and not to serve foreign interests.
“So all these things, as you do them there is suffering, but there is light at the end of the day and I believe people are beginning to see things changing and the currency is stabilising but the fight is still on.”
This comes as the NPA has successfully seized assets valued at over US$13 million found to be proceeds of criminal activities.
A further US$30 000 000 worth of assets have been frozen pending confiscation proceedings at the High Court.
Mr Hodzi said the NPA Asset Forfeiture Unit was being decentralised to all regional courts, while all prosecutors were being equipped with asset forfeiture skills.
“Asset seizures are always a key demand from the public in cases involving corruption and they are also a deterrent feature for would-be offenders.
“Ill-gotten wealth must be disgorged off criminals,” he said.
“All the prosecutors and law officers who operate in these courts have been trained in all aspects and requirements of asset forfeiture.
“There has been immense progress in the forfeiture of assets and we have made tremendous inroads in civil asset forfeiture applications.
“These applications are made in the anti-corruption courts.
“So far we have recovered two houses and vehicles including haulage trucks, all with a total value of over US$600 000.
“We have a total of US$13 100 000 worth of assets that were forfeited to the State.
“A further US$30 000 000 worth of assets is frozen pending confiscation proceedings in the High Court.”
Mr Hodzi said prosecutors had been seconded to India for intensive training in cybercrime, criminology and forensics.
“We have partnered with local, regional and international authorities in the fight against corruption including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa (ARINSA), World Bank Group through their Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative as well as the ICJ to train prosecutors in the prosecution of corruption cases, anti-money laundering laws and asset forfeiture.
“The training will continue until we are satisfied that every prosecutor including the recently-recruited prosecutors understand economic crime and asset forfeiture,” he said.