‘Money changers’ wings clipped

​Bond notes

The foreign currency dealers commonly known as 'money changers', who usually display hard currencies and Zimbabwean bond notes, this week went underground. They were playing hide-and-seek with authorities, amid reports usual havens were still busy despite the government's move to jail errant players.
Government gazetted a law to curb illegal cash and foreign currency trading with offenders to face a mandatory 10-year jail term, while their cash is forfeited to the State and bank accounts frozen. Police told the media this week over two dozens 'money changers' had been arrested in a blitz to weed out illegal cash transactions which have been blamed for spiralling price hikes.
By yesterday in Harare, inorder for one to get $US100 they had to part with $165 in bond notes or bank or Ecocash transfer.  
The new measures to curb the rot were announced in Parliament by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week, saying the stringent regulations were gazetted under the Exchange Control Amendment Regulations.
 He also said the government would, with immediate effect, re-introduce price controls on basic commodities to restore sanity in the business sector.
"In order to deal with the scourge of people buying and selling cash, government has gazetted Exchange Control Regulations enacted by the President, and section 2 will empower the police to arrest anyone trading in currency without a licence and allow the police to seize the cash," Chinamasa said.
"This seized currency will be deposited at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for exhibit pending prosecution, and the regulations will also provide for freezing of funds of corresponding value in financial institutions, where such proceeds are suspected cases of dealing in currency.
"Penalties are fines not exceeding the value of the currency and sentences not exceeding 10 years, and courts can impose fines of three times the value of currency. There will be amendments to the Bank Use Promotions Act to strengthen the powers of the RBZ and it will come before Parliament in a few weeks. The Suppression of Money Laundering Act will also be amended," he said.
Chinamasa said they were still investigating the source of wads of new bond notes, whose pictures went viral on social media platforms last week. He said the problem could also emanate from artisanal miners that are paid in cash in bond notes because every week $5 million was released to them, as an incentive, adding they could be illicitly trading it on the black market. LOCAL

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