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Fresh onslaught against Ecocash

BY MOSES MATENGA

Police have issued a warrant against Econet Wireless to hand over a list of its Ecocash subscribers and transactions as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering.

According to an affidavit filed by Detective Inspector Mkhululi Nyoni, who is the officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigation Department’s Asset Forfeiture Unit Northern Region, Ecocash is being investigated for “non-attributable and non-auditable” individual subscribers, merchants, billers, and agents that were being allegedly used to buy foreign currency on the black market.

“I have reasonable grounds to suspect that Econet Wireless (Pvt) Ltd is involved in money laundering activities in violation of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act,” Nyoni said in an affidavit dated July 17, 2020.

“On July 9, 2020, information was received to the effect that during the period extending from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, Econet Wireless (Pvt) Ltd and its subsidiaries have been fraudulently creating and issuing non-attributable and non-auditable individual 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 from the black market before being externalised.”

Nyoni said there was evidence that Econet Wireless was laundering the “proceeds of crime”.

Econet Wireless was to present required documents within seven days.

“The court directed that Econet Wireless (Pvt) Limited should within seven days provide a list of all subscribers/customers both registered and unregistered in the Econet Wireless (Pvt) Limited database with full subscriber details for the period January 2, 2020 to June 30, 2020,” a search and seizure warrant signed by a magistrate reads in part.

The mobile network operator was also ordered to avail a summary of transient e-money/airtime credit service posted on the platform through airtime loans for the period January 2, 2020 to June 30, 2020 and all financial statements for the period January 2 to June 30 showing inflow and outflow monetary transactions.

“These are, therefore, in the State’s name to command you to proceed to Econet Wireless there from immediately to obtain and take them to a police station or other place of safety until the matter is finalised or until you further receive further orders from court,” reads the warrant.

The government last month ordered the closure of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and scaling down of some mobile money platforms, including EcoCash after accusing the telecoms giant of money laundering and fuelling the foreign currency black market.

Econet officials refused to comment on the matter yesterday, but indications were the police had not conducted any search by the time of going to print.

A telecoms expert said the information the police were demanding included that of clients, who had nothing to do with the alleged money laundering.
He said the information could be open to abuse once it’s in the hands of state security agents.

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