StanChart account freeze sparks anger

HARARE - Standard Chartered Bank has frozen several bank accounts that have received large deposits, and also advised its clients that with immediate effect, ID verification will be carried out at all its automated teller machines (ATMs) countrywide.

It was the first time accounts have been frozen in connection with changes in transaction patterns, and the measures has left the London-listed bank facing its biggest opprobrium from its clients, who have described the unilateral decrees as “draconian”.

Standard Chartered corporate affairs manager Lillian Hapanyengi said yesterday she was out of office returning on June 11, and referred all inquiries to Zivai Ziweya and Gift Murashiki, who could not be reached.

The British multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London, said in emails to its Zimbabwe clients it was investigating unusually large deposits on suspicion of money laundering.

“We note that your transaction pattern has recently changed and in terms of the money laundering guidelines, we are required to ascertain the source of funds flowing into your account,” said an email to a StanChart client which declined to be named.

“Kindly therefore contact your branch manager to discuss this issue at your earliest convenience. In the meantime, cash withdrawals from your account have been restricted until you discuss the change in your transaction pattern with your branch manager. In order to minimise inconvenience to you during this period, you can still access your funds through RTGS and Point of Sale (POS).”

The accounts freeze sparked protests at StanChart branches in the latest flare up of anger against the government’s handling of the economic crisis that has spawned an unprecedented cash crisis.

Many depositors who jammed the large UK bank’s Harare branches were concerned they would lose money they had saved.

Standard Chartered boasts one of the world’s largest banking networks, stretching across much of Asia and Africa, and its shares rose 13 percent to 589,8 percent — a new high for 2016 — after it reported a return to profit in the first quarter, which is typically the strongest period of the year for banks.

The new requirement to carry out ID verification at ATMs was also facing a serious backlash from angry depositors, who argued that it was an added inconvenience to indisposed clients.

StanChart, which boasts that its visa debit card provides “great convenience around the world”, said in an sms sent to its clients this week: “Kindly note that with immediate effect, ID verification will be carried out at all out ATMs countrywide to ensure that only card owners transact.”

There was no further explanation.

This comes as the Central Bank has blamed a shortage of cash notes in the country on money laundering, gold smuggling and a decision by the government to spread salary payments to civil servants over the month.

The central bank’s director for exchange control, told the 77th annual general meeting of the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls last month that international criminal syndicates were capitalising on the country’s lax policing of its financial systems.

It is not immediately clear if the measures being instituted by StanChart were part of the crackdown on vice by the RBZ, which has tightened the screws on withdrawals, with individuals now permitted to withdraw only a maximum of $500 per day at the large UK bank, although the RBZ has decreed that the daily withdrawal be $1 000.

Mpofu defended the withdrawal limits, arguing “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,” Mpofu said.

Many Zimbabweans blame their country’s economic woes on corruption among the political class and throughout its institutions.

The RBZ has also said it was probing 280 executives whether they have ties to a massive document leak from Panama that showed how offshore companies are used to stash clients’ wealth.

Comments (58)

Kutaura chokwadi a problem can create another problem. ash you try to solve a problem by creating another. cash woes, then limit withdrawals, then long queue on banks with everyone wanting own money in expectation of another looming problem. then you freeze accounts so as deter the existing and potential depositors, they will keep money under pillows and the worsens the liquidity crisis.

mamborume - 3 June 2016

I have said it many times and I would like to say it again. Anyone in their right faculty of mind would not have banked hard earned money in Zimbabwe. I can foresee worse things are to come. God Bless Zimbabwe and its poor citizens who are but just ponnys in the financial game

gamuchirayi - 3 June 2016

Thank you Standard Chartered, irregular deposits pattern should be investigated. People are stealing and engaging in fraudulent activities, to the expense of innocent depositors. We will always salute you for this.

Zvichapera - 3 June 2016

I think Daily news was truly a ghetto paper. By law banks are mandate to monitor unusual transactions to prevent laundering. If suddenly your account gets credited with $15,000, when we know that over the last few years your account rarely exceeds $500, that is suspicious. It should be frozen and investigated immediately. What I was expecting the paper to write is ask those whose accounts were frozen to explain themselves.

dick mboko - 3 June 2016

Guys these Stanchart pple have done no wrong here. firstly they want to protect themselves from too clever ppl who want to access their money thru their bank becoz they are having a higher daily cash withdrawal limit as compared to others that are pegging it at $100, if they do not put restrictive measures its the very very clients who will end up having$100 as daily wthdrawal limits. zvabatwa kuti pane vave kushandisa ma accounts evanhu vekustanchart ivo vachitiza mabanks avo akadhakwa. secondly its the norm , that transaction on your acc get to be out of your ussual pattern the should warrant an investigation especially if huge amounts of money are involved as outlined by the anti money laundering act, bhanga riri kutogonasa iri ndozvinotodiwa neRBZ as the regulator wacho.

jonh - 3 June 2016

That is a good move by the bank

TanakaHonest - 3 June 2016

Stanchart Zimbabwe is prone to draconian machinations and then explaining after the fact. This is why I am now putting in measures to close my accounts with them. You cannot just freeze my money on allegations.

Concerned Customer - 3 June 2016

Common sense tells me that if i have a bank account with stanchat and my brother has with another bank giving $100 a day and i manage to empty my account in 1 week with stanchat mwana wamai vangu ofa nenzara here wen he can just do RTG into my account and i help him get his too. Kkkkkk under normal cash situations these would not be doing so yango bata wabata.

Tawa - 3 June 2016

Does this paper hve reporters knowledgeable in Finance? its a common procedure that when unsual deposits pattern suddenly emerge the bank has to investigate to curb money laundering. vanhu vakafunda shona pa CCOSA vava mareporters.

Daily mnangagwa news - 3 June 2016

What StanChart is doing, is very much normal in the financial sector world wide. Had RBZ been applying financial regulations that $15Bn would not have vanished just like that. Instead RBZ is the leader in the financial lawlessness in the country.

X-MAN IV - 3 June 2016

Stanchart is right. It is actually doing what our Reserve bank should have done long back

CLEVERS - 4 June 2016

Stanchart is right. It is actually doing what our Reserve bank should have done long back

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Instead of using the ID card or no to authenticate customers, Stanchart Bank should use a Biometric system this is the only way that at least guarantees that only the account holder is able to transact at the ATM . Otherwise the use of an ID card is a futile exercise as the account holder can either give the person the ID no or the actual ID to transact at an ATM.

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Securing depositors hard earned money is one of the principal mandates of the Bank.All indigenous banks closed shop because they relegated this aspect to the peripheral.

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