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EIGHT companies allegedly handled transactions valued over $1,5 billion in illegal foreign currency deals that involved transferring huge amounts of money from corporate bank accounts into mobile money agent and bulk payment lines, it has been learnt.

The illicit deals took place between January and June last year at a time the Zimbabwe dollar was losing value at an alarming pace.

At the time, depreciation of the local unit pushed up prices of goods and services.

Each of the eight companies moved amounts ranging from $59 million to over $300 million through their Steward Bank accounts into dozens of EcoCash agent lines that were later used as conduits to mop up foreign currency by black market dealers.

The details are contained in court documents.

The companies and their directors were hauled to court last week charged with contravening the Exchange Control Act.

However, they are not among the 30 individuals who were last week outed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for their involvement in illegal foreign currency deals and were banned from operating bank and mobile money accounts.

According to the court documents, which have now helped to lift the veil on the underworld of illegal foreign currency market, the eight moved $1 511 470 476 in just under six months.

Kay Mudonhi Investments along with the co-accused Kudzai Mudonhi (34) and Justice Mahuni (29) allegedly moved $150 million between January 1 and June 30 last year to finance illegal foreign currency purchases.

“During the period between 1st of January 2020 to the 30th of June 2020, accused two (Mudonhi) and accused number three (Mahuni) opened business current account number (103720426) with Steward Bank on behalf of accused one (Kay Mudonhi Investments).

“Accused two and accused three also registered two EcoCash agent lines, namely 0788 193 444 and 0788 193 424, in the name of accused number one.

“During the said period, accused two and three, on behalf of accused one, received a total $150 128 765 into their Steward Bank account and would then transfer into their EcoCash agent lines.

“During the period between January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, the accused transferred the said amount of money from their EcoCash agent lines into various EcoCash agent lines dotted all over the country for the purpose of buying foreign currency on the parallel market.

“The agents would then source foreign currency from the parallel market on behalf of the accused persons as testified by witnesses who were interviewed during investigations.”

Vision Credit Source Pvt Ltd was jointly charged with Takudzwa Godwin Rafemoyo (42) for illicitly buying foreign currency worth $192 million between January and June last year.

Rafemoyo opened a bank account for Vision Credit with Steward Bank before registering five separate EcoCash agent lines, which were then used as conduits to move the money to various buyers.

“During the said period, accused number two (Rafemoyo), on behalf of accused number one, transacted a total of $192 207 880 from their Steward Bank accounts into their EcoCashagent lines.”

Between January 16 and May 7 the same year, he transferred $49 million into one of his agent lines before transferring another $49 million into the other lines “for the purpose of buying foreign currency on the black market”.

He went on to transfer amounts ranging between $2 million and $9 million into the other lines for the same reason.

He was arrested on September 24.

Access Finance Pvt Ltd and Singathini Raymond Chigogwana (47) were also charged with purchasing foreign currency worth $185 million through 12 EcoCash agent lines last year.

Isau Bwerinofa (43) was also charged along with Access Finance Pvt for using over $185 million to buy foreign currency through EcoCash lines.

“ . . . accused transferred the funds in question from Access Finance EcoCash accounts into several EcoCash agent lines owned by companies and individuals who are street money vendors.

“The recipients would then unlawfully buy foreign currency from the streets on behalf of the accused.”

Bwerinofa is being separately charged along with Chemmodities Trading Pvt Ltd for shipping $333 million onto the black market between January and June last year.

Juso Global Pvt Ltd and Justice Mahuni (29), who were arrested on September 25, are facing charges of transacting $262 million from Steward Bank accounts into the EcoCash agent lines before purchasing forex through proxies.

“The accused then transferred the money through their agent lines to various agents who owned agent lines.

“The agents used the money to source for foreign currency from the parallel market as testified by witnesses who were interviewed during the course of investigations.”

Capital Profit Financial Services and Tapiwa Madzara (32) are being charged with funding illicit foreign currency purchases valued at $59 million.

“During the period between January 1, 2020 to June 30 2020, accused number one (Capital Profit Financial Services) received sum of $59 237 733 from thirty-seven companies and individuals into the Steward Bank account.

“Acting in common purpose, accused number two (Madzara) further transferred the funds in question from one EcoCash bulk payer line into several EcoCash lines (owned by) by several companies and individuals . . . the recipients then unlawfully purchased forex on the parallel market on behalf of the two accused.”

All of the accused were denied bail when they appeared in court last week.

In May last year, the Government banned mobile money agent lines before launching investigations into how the platforms were being used to undermine the stability of the local unit.

The forex black market was being sustained through the use of four mobile money platforms, with the Government describing EcoCash, where over 90 percent of mobile transactions take place, as the “central pivot of the galloping black market exchange rate”.

Authorities said over $8 billion was being held in 501 000 merchant and agent accounts at that time.

Original Source: sundaymail zimbabwe