THREE Chinese nationals and 19 illegal money-changers have been arrested in Harare since the gazetting of regulations criminalising cash vending, with police recovering $55 000 worth of bond notes, US$1 662 and R6 000. The suspects were also found in possession of 10 000 Tanzanian shillings and 320 Botswana Pula.

Under the regulations gazetted last week through Statutory Instrument (SI) 122A of 2017- Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (No 5), police are now empowered to arrest illegal money-changers and seize whatever currency in their possession. Government has established cash vending as a catalytic agent to arbitrary price hikes and rent-seeking behaviour. Illegal cash traders had turned Eastgate Shopping Mall, Copacabana, Roadport, Market Square and First Street into zones for illicit foreign currency deals.

Following the new regulations, which effectively amended the Exchange Control Regulations of 1996, published in Statutory Instrument 109 of 1996, in particular Section 2 of the principal regulations, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has since launched an operation code-named “Dzosai mari”, which has since led to the ongoing arrests.

Abel Sibanda (21), Faith Muchemwa (28), Lovemore Bangwanyo (20), Shelly Danda (51), Kudzayi Musande (31), Sibongile Nyahanana (40), Joyce Marufu (33), Admire Chikanga (34), Esseline Siziba (49), Trymore Tara (35), Ruth Mutenure (30), Fiona Mapfumo (37), Khan Zeyn (28), Catherine Tekwa, Alec and Tichafa Manangazira, Abel Shambare, Debrick Hwara and Sarah Hanyani initially appeared in court on Tuesday and are still in custody pending bail ruling.

They appeared on separate records before magistrate Ms Nomsa Sabarauta charged with contravening the Exchange Control Act. They are being represented by Messrs Dumisani Mthombeni, Norman Tsarwe, Tawanda Takaendesa, Gwinyai Shumba, Steady Kachere and Liberty Mandivei.

Fang Wei (35), Wu Huanjiu (42) and Wei Wei (30), who are also being implicated in various cash vending activities, were found in possession of $50 000 worth of bond notes, which have also been seized. Fang and Huanjiu are employed at Hanjiu Mineral Development Pvt Ltd as accountant and managing director, while Wei is the operations manager at Planners Stationery.

The trio appeared before the same magistrate yesterday and were remanded in custody to today for bail ruling. The prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri opposed bail on the basis that there was overwhelming evidence against the gang as they were caught red-handed illegally trading money.

“What they were doing has a negative impact on the economy and if they are convicted, they are likely to face a lengthy prison term, hence this will induce them to abscond,” she said.

On October 3, police detectives got a tip-off that Fang, Wei and Huanjiu were in the business of selling cash at a premium. The detectives went to 136 Seke Road to conduct their investigations and they saw Wei coming from a building with a box which he put in his car and drove off. They followed him and stopped him along Enterprise road before searching his vehicle.

They recovered $50 000 worth of bond notes which were in the box, leading to his arrest. Fang then implicated his alleged accomplices.