FIU to forfeit mobile money funds

September 16, 2021

TINASHE MAKICHI

 

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) intends to forfeit unclaimed funds from blocked mobile money agents to the State as no one has come forward to claim the funds, Business Times has established.

Last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) suspended a number of mobile money agent lines with balances of ZWL$50 000 or more.

RBZ suspected that the galloping black market exchange rate was being funded and fuelled through the use of the mobile phone platforms with EcoCash accounting for about 95% of the volumes and the remainder by NetOne’s OneMoney.

FIU issued a directive that account holders should apply through their respective mobile money service providers to have the wallet balances liquidated to the customer’s bank accounts.

The application for liquidation needed to be accompanied by proof of source and purpose of the funds.  Those that were into a legitimate business and were able to explain the source and purpose of the funds to the satisfaction of the FIU have been allowed to move the funds to their bank accounts.

But, the majority have not done so, a year on following the closure of the agent lines, for fear of being prosecuted.

FIU director general Oliver Chiperesa said they would move to forfeit the money, running into millions, to the State.

“So obviously this category of account holders now has no way of claiming the funds held under false identities.  More than a year on, many account holders have not even bothered to come forward to claim their funds, because they have no legitimate explanation for the funds and the transactions while others fear possible prosecution,” Chiperesa told Business Times.

“Given the time that has lapsed with no one coming forward to claim some of the funds, we are considering legal steps to have the funds forfeited to the State.”

The FIU was established in 2004 in terms of section 3 of the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act [Chapter 24:24].

It exists as a Unit in the administrative establishment of the RBZ but has its own governing statutes giving it a mandate distinct from that of the central bank.

As part of measures to control the spiralling forex exchange rate, the government also suspended some bureau de change and microfinance institutions over suspected illegal forex activities causing depreciation of the domestic currency.

It also suspended trade on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and mobile phone-based payments to address what they termed “criminality and economic sabotage”.

The government was of the opinion that mobile payment platforms were major drivers of a roaring foreign currency trade outside the formal banking channels, with listed stocks such as Old Mutual providing proxy exchange rates implied by their prices on foreign bourses such as the London Stock Exchange.

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