AS the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) battles to tame a flourishing illegal foreign currency market, its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has issued a chilling warning that it is engaging law enforcement agents to arrest dealers who use social media platforms for their illicit deals.
The warning comes as the black market rates for the Zimbabwe dollar against the US currency continue to rise with traders offering between 75 and 90% compared to the ZW$25 to the US dollar-pegged by the RBZ in March.
The foreign currency shortages have deepened Zimbabwe’s economic crisis last seen in 2008.
In a statement, the FIU said it had been monitoring social media platforms and would come hard on users who advertise and promote their illegal foreign currency trade.
“The FIU is aware of WhatsApp groups that have mushroomed in the country for the specific purposes of promoting and facilitating illegal foreign currency trade,” it said.
“The FIU, in collaboration with police, banks, mobile money/mobile phone service providers and relevant regulatory agencies, has embarked on an exercise to identify and take action against individuals who create, advertise on or participate (actively or passively) in WhatsApp groups or other platforms for illegal foreign currency trading,” said the FIU in a statement.
Under the new system, FIU said the mobile numbers used to join or advertise on the illegal groups will be shared with mobile phone operators and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), and be blacklisted.
“Other mobile phone numbers registered in the names of such persons will be identified and barred. Any mobile wallets registered in the names of such persons will be frozen and the persons barred from accessing mobile money services with any operator,” said FIU.
The unit also revealed bank accounts owned by any person identified will be frozen and the culprit will be blacklisted and barred from accessing banking services with any bank.
It went on to warn that identified persons will be investigated and prosecuted for illegal trading in or advertising illegal trading in foreign currency.
FIU also requested members of the public to report any person, mobile phone number, or bank account used to engage in or advertise illegal foreign currency activities.
The central bank recently raised the red flag on Econet after it accused the telecommunication giant of aiding money laundering and acting as a conduit for the promotion of illegal foreign currency dealings through its mobile financial service platform Ecocash.