Chinese businesspeople have described the government’s list of businesses that allegedly externalised foreign currency as flawed after many of them were named.
On Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa released a list of names of companies and individuals who allegedly did not heed a three-month moratorium to bring back externalised funds as ordered in December 2017.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The list was split into three categories namely: funds externalised to foreign banks in cash or under spurious transactions; funds externalised through payment of goods not received in Zimbabwe; and funds externalised through non-repatriation of export proceeds.
The three categories fall under illicit financial outflows, according to government.
China topped the list with allegedly the biggest number of firms and individuals that allegedly externalised funds to foreign banks.
The list has, however, been largely questioned across business circles as being unprofessional, unfair, inaccurate, undiplomatic, counter-productive and without basis.
A massive 114 Chinese nationals and / or companies named out of a total of 157 listed under the “spurious transactions” category.
Chinese Federation of Zimbabwe deputy president Steve Zhao however disputed the number of the Chinese on the list.
“From what I understand and I also heard a story about some of the names, I do not think is true,” he said. “Some of the people have talked to the bank (central bank) and gave the required documents to the bank and I do not know why they still appear on the list. I do not know the number or percentage of the people, but I know that some of the people actually submitted documents to the bank and could not get cleared. I do not know why the bank may have delayed in processing those documents.”
Zhao said it was strange that the Chinese could be said to have externalised the amounts quoted on the list when there were procedures at banks that scrutinised transactions done outside the country.
“I do not think that list would be the genuine one. I mean, even if you look at it, some of the amounts, $5 000 or $4 000 or even $10 000,” he said “I don’t think that list could be genuine. There should be some reason (for such action to publicise them). I do not think that the Chinese are actually looting the money out of Zimbabwe from where I stand.” Zhao said. He said what normally happens is that if Chinese people had business in Zimbabwe, they brought equipment from China and when they are sending the money out, they go through a series of stringent processes before it is approved.
“Some of the guys brought in equipment from China in 2007 and 2008 and at the time if you remember there was the regulation of indigenisation, there are a lot of Chinese businesses that opened factories in the industrial sites. At the time they brought in machinery worth hundreds of millions, so by the time they wanted to transfer back the money (Zimbabwean authorities) felt that maybe that this money was being stolen,” he said.
“but all the same, they did it through banking channels and not the black market, so it was very legal to do this transfer. That is why even the (Chinese) embassy said that the Reserve Bank had to look at the list on a case-by-case basis.”
Standardbusiness last week went out to locate the directors of two of the Chinese firms listed in the said category: Jinding Investments, which is alleged to have externalised $1 million; and Jin Nan Corporation [$300 000].
A search at the Companies Registry Office on Friday showed that both companies were not registered, yet they were accused of externalising money.
For companies to open bank accounts locally they have to be registered with the Registrar of Companies.
Financial analyst Persistence Gwanyanya said it was impossible for an unregistered company to open a bank account unless they did it fraudulently.
“The monies that were recorded by the Reserve Bank are monies that went through the formal system. So if they are not registered, it may be that they are fraudulent companies that then opened accounts fraudulently and traded, but surely there should be someone who has got the names of the directors of the companies because to do a transaction you need those names of directors,” he said.
“It may also be because of the chaos at the Companies Registry Office, but it warrants a significant investigation of what actually happened because it means these companies were just granted the company forms without going through the system, went and opened the bank accounts with fictitious directors and transacted with them. It would be a long chain of fraud.”
Scores of companies and individuals, including a large number of Chinese nationals, allegedly committed financial crimes by externalising a total of
$357 585 448 worth of funds to foreign banks in cash and or other illicit transactions.
China is regarded as Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend. Zimbabwe looked ‘east’ more than a decade ago after a fallout with western countries over human rights violations and governance deficits.