RBZ opens investigations into Zimbabweans named in the Panama papers


Bill rautenbach

Zimbabwe’s central bank has opened investigations into about 280 locals named in the Panama Papers, amid claims millions may have been externalised from the country.

The investigation comes as Harare battles to stem a blazing cash crisis precipitated by massive outflow of cash estimated by the central bank at $1.8 billion last year alone.

Prominent names from the list released early this month from the leaked documents of a Panama law firm, Mossack Fonseca, include Zimplats chief executive officer Alex Mhembere, property tycoon Ken Sharpe, former Aico chief executive Happymore Mapara, plus well known businessmen Billy Rautenbach and John Bredenkamp.

Several firms, including Innscor and Zimplats, have been named for paying executives through offshore companies and accounts, allegations they have denied.

The central bank noted that there were legal reasons for opening offshore accounts and said it would approach the issue with an open mind, as not everyone named could be guilty of crime. However, the bank has questioned the morality of transferring large amounts of cash to tax havens like the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

“We have 280 Zimbabweans on the Panama Papers which the Reserve Bank investigating,” said Morris Mpofu, the central bank’s director for Exchange Control, addressing the 77th annual general meeting of the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe.

“We are surfing through that list. Some took funds to the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands,” he said, noting that the introduction of the multicurrency system in 2009, which is credited with briefly stabilising the economy until 2012, had seen international criminal syndicates taking advantage of the country’s lax policing of its financial systems.

In one case, three foreign nationals had camped at a five star hotel in Harare, withdrawing $3 000 per day for 30 days, Mpofu said.

They then slipped out of the country after bribing officilals at the border post, he claimed.

In a crackdown on vice, the RBZ has tightened the screws on withdrawals, with individuals now permitted to withdraw a maximum of $1 000 per day, or R20 000.

Mpofu defended the limits, saying “we have been too generous, very few Zimbabweans earn $30 000 per month”.

“The challenges that we faced when we liberalised the economy, is that we opened up and became a safe haven for international criminals. Zimbabweans also became ill-disciplined as well. Zimbabwe has become a fishing pond of hard currency.”

“We have been using our foreign exchange irresponsibly over the past five years and that has also affected the situation we are in,” said Mpofu.-The Source


Related stories:

Zimbabwe lost $11.8 billion in illicit transfers

NSSA suspends Matemera over $330 million externalisation allegations

Zimbabwe stems illicit outflows

Zimbabwe says it needs bond notes because “we are feeding looters”

Externalisation partly to blame for current deflation in Zimbabwe

Mobile phone bosses arrested for externalisation


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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