Zimbabwe’s illegal money changers flock back to the streets

Businessmen display money at the exchange market in Suq Bacad market in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, Nov. 18, 2015. (Xinhua/Faisal Isse)
Businessmen display money at the exchange market in Suq Bacad market in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, Nov. 18, 2015. (Xinhua/Faisal Isse)

Illegal money changers have returned to Harare’s streets following a short hiatus that had been caused by the passing of a law in September that punishes offenders for up to 10 years in jail.

The police can now seize the cash being transacted and the courts may also impose fines of three times the value of the currency confiscated.

When the law was passed, scores of money changers who had been operating in the Central Business District (CBD) and other downtown areas withdrew from the streets opting to conduct their business in a more discreet manner.

The money changers have taken up their old positions but unlike in the past, they no longer flaunt wads of cash to attract clients.

One money changer said she was taking chances as the police could pounce on her at any time.

“I am doing this because I do not have a choice. When the law was passed I decided to abandon this trade, but there is nothing to sustain me at home and the children are starving,” she said.

She said the money changers could easily identify people looking for U.S. dollars and South African rand by the way they walked around the area.

“They know that we have returned and their body language shows us that they are looking for money. If the police come they will not find the money on our bodies or in our bags. Someone else will bring it here.

“We use cell phones to communicate with the ones who have the money, while our regular clients also call us when they need money,” she said.

While banks have been short of cash, including the surrogate bond notes, illegal cash vendors have been making brisk business in the streets selling the U.S. dollar at a premium.

The new regulations also impose several other penalties including the freezing of funds, if the illegal deals are conducted through banks.

The seized currency will be deposited with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe pending prosecution and will be used as exhibits.

Prior to the new regulations, the Banking Act only allowed the central bank to impose penalties on offenders.

At least 25 people have so far been arrested and are appearing in court under the new law. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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