ZIMBABWE: Illegal forex traders feel the heat
Money changers in the country are finding the going tough following the ban on mobile money agent lines and the introduction of daily transaction limits.
The Reserve of Zimbabwe recently banned mobile money agent lines as well as set $5 000 as the cap for daily transactions for individuals.
The central bank also introduced a policy that limits mobile wallet users to only one account per individual.
Agent lines were being used across the country to cash-in and cash-out as well as for sales transactions.
The RBZ suspected that some of the lines were being used to fuel the black market causing a spike in foreign currency rates.
Reports abound that the lines had become a conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, part of which was being used to attack local currency.
The Government in June this year, however, ordered the suspension of mobile transactions to allow for investigations in the parallel market.
“Agent wallets are no longer serving any legitimate purpose and were now being used primarily for illegal foreign exchange transactions.
Agents’ mobile money wallets are therefore abolished, with immediate effect,” the RBZ said recently in its Mid-term monetary policy statement.
When EcoCash was first introduced agent lines were used for cash-in purposes at a low level.
However, some unscrupulous individuals took advantage of cash shortages that the country is facing to fleece members of the public, charging almost 100 percent to cash out.
The RBZ said agents who currently had funds in their accounts would transfer them into their bank accounts after providing sources of the money.
“Agents currently holding value in suspended and frozen wallets shall be allowed to liquidate the funds to their bank accounts, upon the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) having satisfied itself of the legitimacy of the source of the funds.”When the RBZ suspended and froze agent and bulk-payer wallets in June, mobile money operators allowed illegal foreign currency dealers to use multiple individual wallets as a means to bypass the transaction limits and continue with their illicit transactions.
“Mobile money operators shall, with immediate effect, close all multiple wallets, and allow just one wallet per individual,” directed the RBZ.
Following the recent daily and monthly limits pronouncement by the central bank, foreign currency dealers had resorted to multiple accounts to sustain their operations.
The RBZ in June this year introduced the foreign currency auction system to determine the Zimbabwe dollar exchange rate.
Since the weekly auctions were introduced, the foreign exchange rate has stabilised and the black market rate has been tamed.
According to observers, there has been concerted efforts by the speculators to sustain rates hike, but restricted flow of local dollars through EcoCash, has seen black market rates stuck on nearly one position.