Zimbabwe takes action on WhatsApp groups fanning illegal Forex trade

By Almot Maqolo

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) through its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has embarked on an exercise to identify and take action against individuals who create, advertise on or participate ‘actively or passively’ in WhatsApp groups or other platforms for illegal foreign currency trading.

Although RBZ fixed the interbank exchange rate at $25 to US$1 for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown, street rates have breached the 80x mark. Zimbabweans are now in the game of converting money into US Dollars because the money in their banks is not storing the value.

The FIU said it has been monitoring social media platforms where foreign currency dealers have been advertising and promoting their illegal trade. “The FIU is aware of WhatsApp groups that have mushroomed in the country for the specific purpose of promoting and facilitating illegal foreign currency trade,” it said.

Working in collaboration with the police, banks, mobile money or mobile money service providers and relevant regulatory agencies, FIU said, emphasized that it will take action against illegal foreign currency trading adverts.

Action to be taken, includes the mobile phone numbers used to join or advertise on the illegal groups will be shared with mobile phone operators and Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) for barring and other mobile phone numbers registered in the names of such persons will also be identified and barred, any mobile money wallets registered in the names of such persons will be frozen and the persons barred from accessing mobile money services with any operator.

Bank accounts owned by a person so identified will be frozen and the person will be blacklisted and barred from accessing banking services with any bank and identified persons will be investigated and prosecuted for illegally trading in or advertising illegal trading in foreign currency.

FIU appealed to members of the public to report any person, mobile phone number or bank account that continue to be used to engage in or advertise illegal foreign currency activities.

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