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Zimbabwe Police to Seize Econet Financial, Subscriber Database Over Money Laundering Claims

FILE: In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, vendors are seen on their mobile phones while selling cash at a premium in Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwean police have obtained a court warrant of search and seizure of some financial records and subscription database of the country’s largest mobile phone network, Econet Wireless, following accusations of money laundering.

An affidavit signed by investigations officer, Detective Inspector and Officer in Charge of the Criminal Investigations’ Asset Unit, Mkhululi Nyoni, indicates that Econet allegedly used various people between January and June this year to engage in buying and selling hard cash.

The search warrant orders Econet Wireless to surrender all documents being requested by the police within seven working days.

In the affidavit signed by Nyoni, indications are that the company allegedly violated some provisions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.

The affidavit reads in part, “On 9 July 2020, information was received to the effect that during the period extending from 01 January 2020 to 30 June 2020, Econet Wireless (Pvt) Ltd and its subsidiaries have been fraudulently creating and issuing non-attributable and non-auditable subscribers merchants billers and agents which they credited with huge sums of money and distributed to their runners through their trust accounts. The runners would in turn buy foreign currency in the black market before being externalized.”

The police suspect that such activities may have resulted in the money laundering of proceeds of crime.

The police are therefore demanding that Econet Wireless should provide them with a list of all subscribers/customers both registered and unregistered in the company’s database with full subscriber details for the period 2 January, 2020, to 30 June, 2020.

They are also demanding that the company should provide summaries of “transient e-money/airtime service posted on the platform through airtime loans” and “financial statements showing the entire inflow and outflow of monetary transactions” during the same period.

Econet Wireless officials were unavailable for comment.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently ordered the closure of the local stock exchange and scaling down of some mobile money platforms, including Econet’s EcoCash, claiming that some of them were engaged in massive money laundering and fueling the black market.

The local Zimbabwe dollar has crumbled against the green back, owing to what independent economists say is lack of economic fundamentals in the southern African nation.

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