Police Crack Down on Illegal Money Changers: Hundreds Arrests and Bank Accounts Frozen

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HARARE – In a major operation targeting illegal currency trading, the Zimbabwean police have arrested 224 individuals and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has frozen 90 bank accounts.

The crackdown, a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, comes on the heels of the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency last month.

FIU has also imposed fines on over 40 individuals for breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The initiative, according to The Herald, aims to curb the activities of money changers who are violating Section 14(1) of the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act and the Exchange Control Act by engaging in illegal foreign currency dealings.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests.

“A total of 224 forex dealers have been arrested nationwide, and prosecutions will follow. This operation will continue until we restore order in the economy,” Nyathi stated.

The activities of these money changers are viewed as a threat to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, undermining efforts through their illicit financial operations.

Nyathi also refuted social media claims about police supervision of large retail shops. “We urge the public to disregard these reports,” he said.

FIU Director General Oliver Chiperesa highlighted the FIU’s role in the operation, including the investigation of financial transactions of the arrested individuals and the freezing of their bank accounts.

“Many of those arrested possessed several bank cards belonging to third parties. We have frozen dozens of accounts linked to these cards and are analyzing the transactions,” Chiperesa explained.

The FIU collaborates with banks to monitor daily transactions, identifying red flags and patterns of illegal dealings in the parallel market. The operation also targets traders refusing to accept ZiG or trading it at parallel market rates.

Since the introduction of ZiG by RBZ Governor Dr. John Mushayavanhu in his April 5 Monetary Policy Statement, there has been a notable decrease in the presence of illegal money changers in Harare’s Central Business District and other areas. However, there are concerns that these operators may be shifting to more covert methods.

Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube reiterated the government’s determination to support the new currency and penalize those undermining it. He emphasized the necessity of imposing heavy fines on those engaging in parallel market trading to stabilize the economy and uphold the integrity of the ZiG currency.