By Golden Sibanda and Martin Kadzere
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has closed an unspecified number of mobile money agent lines suspected to have been fuelling exchange rate volatility.
A source within the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) told The Herald that the suspension of the mobile money agent lines and accounts across all networks was meant to facilitate investigations into potential illegal foreign currency activities.
The majority of financial transactions in Zimbabwe are conducted on mobile platforms with EcoCash accounting for about 95 percent of the volumes and the remainder by NetOne’s OneMoney.
Preliminary indications from the FIU show that transactions valued at more than $75 million were being executed on the agent lines even though the nature of their businesses did not support such huge money movement.
What heightened suspicion was the fact that the value of transactions remained “excessively high” despite the country being under the Covid-19 enforced lockdown for the past five weeks.
“That is the law of the FIU,” said a source within the Reserve Bank who declined to be identified citing confidentiality. They want to ensure that people or businesses with the agent lines are bona fide entities and they have to prove the source of their funding. The FIU, which tracks financial transactions in this country, wants mobile operators to enhance their Know Your Customer framework after establishing that there is weak KYC enforcement given the amount of suspicious transactions.
“It is not only EcoCash, but it is a market wide matter whereby the FIU want operators to enforce KYC principles. Therefore they have frozen suspected agent lines so that each matter can be evaluated on a case by case basis.”
The source said the objective of the blitz was to curb illegal transactions that could be artificially driving the exchange rate volatility, thereby fuelling inflation.
Recently, the RBZ suspended some bureaux de change and micro finance institutions over suspected illegal forex activities causing exponential depreciation of the domestic currency.
This is widely believed to be the driving force behind a sustained rise in prices, which has seen inflation galloping to new record levels.
Econet and NetOne representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday. The Herald