The Sunday Mail
Brian Chitemba and Kuda Bwititi
A massive scandal has rocked Nedbank Zimbabwe — a local unit of one of South Africa’s largest financial services groups — after 28 employees were nabbed by police for allegedly swindling the financial institution of over US$1,1 million through an elaborate scheme of swopping depositors’ US-dollar bank balances with electronic money (RTGS).
Some of the employees that were implicated in the scam are reportedly on the run.
It is understood that the scandal — through which bank tellers withdrew depositors’ US dollars and traded them on the parallel market while pocketing the difference — took place in the six-month period to March this year, particularly at a time when US dollar and RTGS balances were pegged at 1:1.
There are fears that creative transactions of this nature were an industry-wide practice.
However, in February, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe took the bold decision of floating the RTGS bank balances, which means the exchange rate is now market-determined.
Sources told The Sunday Mail yesterday that the malfeasance was detected by the Sandton, South Africa-headquartered parent of the local bank, which fished out the scammers.
The suspected fraudsters were arrested on Friday night in Harare, Bulawayo, Zvishavane and Chegutu.
In Harare, 13 Nedbank Zimbabwe — formerly MBCA Zimbabwe — tellers appeared before magistrate Mr Francis Mapfumo, who remanded them to May 8 2019 on various bail terms.
Those who were dragged to court in Harare are Etilda Deshe (39), Chamunorwa Shereni (36), Ivy Mudzingwa (36), Aysher Musoni (32), Prince Manhire (44), Shorai Chiperera (40), Blessing Mutombera (42), Upenyu Mupfure (33), Tawanda Pfuurai (34) and Sithembinkosi Mupendeka (35).
Others include Loveness Kembo (33), Freddy Tafireyi (36) and Oswell Kisi (49).
The State was represented by Linda Gadzikwa, while the accused were represented by Messrs Justin Zuze, Kuchenga Takura and Advocate Garikayi Sithole.
Mr Mapfumo granted the bank tellers bail ranging between $100 and $450.
They were also ordered to continue residing at their known addresses, report once a week to the police and not to interfere with State witnesses until the case is finalised.
The forex scandal occurred between October 15 2018 and March 9 2019.
Overall, the bank suffered financial prejudice of over US$1 119 974.
Court documents read: “During the period extending from 15 October 2018 to 9 March 2019, the accused used (the)Denomination Exchange Platform in the Flexicube core banking system (under teller module), which is designed for exchange of similar currencies only, that is to say, they put in bond cash inflows and took out USD cash, thereby prejudicing the bank of foreign currency and as a result of the accused’s actions, the complainant suffered an actual prejudice of US$1 119 974 and nothing was recovered.”
Nedbank Zimbabwe confirmed the arrest of the bank employees, saying the financial institution will always strive to maintain the ethical integrity of the institution.
In a statement released to The Sunday Mail, the bank’s executive in charge of marketing, public relations and communications, Ms Dedrey Mutimutema confirmed the development.
“Arrests of certain Nedbank staff have been made on allegations of unlawful conduct. Nedbank will fully cooperate with law enforcement agencies on this matter,” she said.
“Nedbank upholds the highest standard of ethics, and integrity is the hallmark of Nedbank’s dealings. Nedbank strives to ensure that employees comply with values of integrity and good ethical practice. Nedbank’s processes are also designed to complement this, and where these are compromised, Nedbank does not hesitate to take appropriate action.”
Nedbank Zimbabwe’s parent is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and holds more than R1trillion in assets.