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10-year Jail Sentence For Illegal Foreign Currency Dealers

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The Zimbabwean President, Doctor Emmerson Mnangagwa has used temporary powers for a new law. The regulations will come into effect tomorrow (Monday 12 November 2018). The new law will see illegal currency traders being sentenced for up to ten years in jail, while unexplained wealth will be confiscated.

Government’s intention will be track unexplained movement of money in the financial system. President Mnangagwa’s intervention (which involves amending the Exchange Control and Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Acts) is through constitutional provisions of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba said that President Mnangagwa had signed the law that will be gazetted. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority have been empowered to pursue perpetrators of financial crime.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said

Our teams have been working tirelessly on the laws for the past few weeks and the legislation is ready for gazetting. It will be issued through an Extraordinary Government Gazette.

The parliament needs to approve the law within six months to make it permanent. The new law prescribes a maximum 10-year custodial sentence for illegal currency traders. Authorities will be empowered (through the Unexplained Wealth Orders Statute) to confiscate ill-gotten wealth.

In the past month of October 2018 the police officers were rounding up illegal foreign currency dealers. However many Zimbabweans are involved in the informal sector of business and do not have access to foreign currency from the bank.

The economy has deteriorated and prices of basic commodities have increased this new law may push people to their limit. This is so because some business traders are demanding payment in foreign currency (USD). One the other hand Zimbabweans are at a risk as exchanging money will attract a 10-year prison sentence.

What will happen to all the Zimbabweans who rely on money changers in order to get their small business going? Will the banks be helping regular citizens get hold of foreign currency, or does the government has a plan of incorporating bureau de change?

There have been two legislative interventions which have been made by His Excellency. The first one is amendment to the Exchange Control Regulations (Exchange Control Act). The definition of ‘dealer’ is further clarified to assist judicial officers in interpreting the law and also the general public in appreciating the law.

“The second amendment is to the Money Laundering (and Proceeds of Crimes) Act to provide for unexplained wealth and the respective enforcement agents where a public office holder or someone previously in that capacity fails to account for wealth accumulated in a manner suspected to be criminal,” she said.

“The Exchange Control Regulations have also been amended to introduce a presumption where one conducts themselves in a certain manner to be held liable for dealing.”

 

“The President has invoked his powers so that law enforcement agents such as the police, the NPA and the Zacc have more teeth to compel suspects to explain their wealth. All those who fail to give satisfactory answers risk forfeiture of their assets or monies in their accounts.

“This instrument can be in place for six months. Within these six months, Parliament can use its powers to make the law permanent.”

A legal expert involved in crafting the legislation, who elected to be anonymous, said the regulations were in line with international best practice.

“In the past it was difficult to do anything to people that were suspected of corruption or those that have unexplained huge amounts of money in their accounts.

“Authorities now have a firm basis to make demands on people to account for their wealth. What this means is that Zacc, the police or Zimra can now go to court to seek an order to compel any person to explain his source of wealth. In the event that there is no satisfactory explanation, that person risks losing money that is in his account or properties that he or should would have acquired through the suspicious dealings.

“This year, Britain introduced Unexplained Wealth Orders with the idea being to fight white-collar crime and mafia-like corruption. These orders are served on any persons who are suspected of white collar crimes.”

Last month, President Mnangagwa instructed the Justice Ministry to work expeditiously with the Attorney-General’s Office to draft regulations to bring currency manipulators and money launderers to book.

The Head of State and Government labelled parallel market activities a national security threat that his administration would not tolerate.

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