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RBZ Seeking Repatriation of Millions of Dollars Linked to HSBC Scandal

HSBC Holdings Plc admitted on February 8, 2015 failings by its Swiss subsidiary, in response to media reports it helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy (SWITZERLAND -

Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Godwin Mangudya, says he is worried by this week’s revelations that an international banking giant, HSBC, made huge profits by engaging in shady deals of over $270 million with some Zimbabwean citizens seven years ago, in the process, disadvantaging the poor southern African nation of the much-needed foreign currency.

In his 2015 monetary policy statement Wednesday, the RBZ chief said the country has put in place measures to recover some of the money.

Mangudya said exchange control authorities had instituted various measures to recover the funds that may have been externalized by some of the rich and famous in Zimbabwe.

The measures, he said, include an amnesty to all those who violated the country’s exchange control regulations prior to 2010.

Mangudya said of the $108 million externalized monies that the bank had ruled out as irrecoverable last year $68 million has been repatriated to the country.

The central bank, he said, would continue engaging those individuals and companies concerned with a view to recover all that is due to the country.

He said they were checking on the HSBC case but said it would be difficult at the moment to say whether the funds were externalized or free funds.

Mangudya said the practice of promoting illicit financial flows is counterproductive and must be stopped.

He said he was worried that Zimbabwe was prejudiced of hundreds of millions of dollars through illicit deals with the HSBC as they tried to evade tax and hide their assets.

Secret HSBC documents, obtained from the French newspaper, Le Monde, by the renowned International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington-based journalist organization with members from more than 65 countries, including Zimbabwe, cover bank accounts up to 2007 said to have allegedly belonged to 198 clients connected to Zimbabwe by birth, or residence, amounting to $272 million.

The account records also show that HSBC in 2006/7 had accounts holding about $102 billion deposited by individuals and companies from 203 nations, Zimbabwe included.

Mangudya did not say what action Zimbabwe would take to recover the unpaid taxes from the politicians, business people and white farmers.

Some economists have expressed worry that the millions of dollars externalized by the Zimbabweans may not be recovered.

Former treasury chief economist, Masimba Manyanya, said most of these funds may not be recovered as most of the people involved are highly connected.

He said given that the figure of externalized funds was only from one financial institution, the country could have lost billions of dollars over the same period.

Independent economist, James Johwa, told VOA Studio 7 that most of the externalization took place when Zimbabwe was in a crisis and Exchange Control Authorities were not doing their job properly.

Johwa shared the same sentiments, adding that recovering the funds could be prove difficult if not impossible.

Externalization also occurred in the country when exporters did not bring back export proceed, unauthorized external loans, unauthorized cross-border investments and non-repatriation of investments incomes among other ways.