ED to name, shame looters today

HARARE - President Emmerson Mnangagwa is today bracing to name and shame individuals and companies that have refused to surrender public funds illegally stashed abroad after a deadline he set expired without their full cooperation.

The new president — who came to power through a soft coup that toppled long ruling despot Robert Mugabe — has threatened to prosecute those who failed to comply with his Friday ultimatum, amid reports the net could catch high-profile individuals, many with political links and some with close ties to the new president.

On Thursday last week, former first lady Grace Mugabe, wife of the former president and multimillionaire oligarch, denied having cash sitting in overseas bank accounts.

“In South Africa I bought a dilapidated house, I wanted to bring it down, demolish some parts and renovate the house,” Grace told reporters invited to the Blue Roof mansion.

“We are honest people, we have no money outside. We don’t have a house in Dubai. We rented a house there when our son was studying there, but then he decided to go to South Africa to finish his studies.”

The deadline for those hiding wealth offshore lapses today, ending a three-month amnesty granted by Mnangagwa.

The amnesty was further extended by two weeks, which lapses today.

The amount sitting in offshore bank accounts is roughly a quarter of the size of the country’s budget.

The original amnesty expired on February 28, but was extended by two weeks at the request of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), which wanted more time to validate and finalise the amnesty process.

The amnesty expired on March 16, with the names of all those who defied the call set to be published today.

Mnangagwa was giving two options: return the funds or face prison.

He has said of the 1 166 cases, only $250 million has been retrieved.

He said he would pardon those who returned all their externalised funds.

Mnangagwa wants all the money, estimated at more than $1,3 billion, returned and has threatened to name and shame those who have failed to take his olive branch. He has said he was going to instruct the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute them.

The move to repatriate looted public funds is seen as an attempt to boost Zimbabwe’s stuttering economy.

Mnangagwa said 30 cases involving immovable property valued at about $50 million in various countries were reported to the central bank.

In another 210 cases involving $287 million, the money was used to buy imported goods.

“The cases processed give a success rate of 45 percent by value. The bulk of the 771 cases — or 55 percent — that did not take heed of the amnesty pertain to non-remittance of export proceeds to the tune of $215,8 million, as well as funds looted by foreigners valued at $375 million. Non-acquittal of imports were valued at $75,1 million,” Mnangagwa said.

The Daily News understands the externalised funds were stashed in South Africa, Britain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, the United States, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

According to Bankers Association of Zimbabwe official statistics, Zimbabweans hold $940 million in banks outside the country, and this grew from $373 million in 2009.
This has been interpreted as a sign of low confidence in the banking system.

Since 2009, Zimbabwe has been using the US dollar as its anchor currency after abandoning its inflation-battered medium of exchange.

The RBZ admits this led to massive smuggling of the greenback to offshore accounts.

While Mnangagwa has threatened to prosecute alleged looters who fail to return externalised funds by March 19, legal experts have said this is open to legal challenge given that externalisation is when you take money which is not your domestic currency out.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti has said under Exchange Control Regulations, externalisation of US dollars, Rands or other currencies under the basket of currencies does not constitute a crime because since 2009, all foreign currencies became legal tender of this country.

“So the US dollar is legal tender, it is no longer foreign currency, so how does externalising it become illegal?” Biti asked rhetorically.

Asked about Biti’s reasoning at the Africa CEO Roundtable in Victoria Falls last week, Mnangagwa sarcastically said those arrested for illegally externalising funds and assets must retain the former Finance minister as counsel.

“If these people are being wrongly dealt with, they must rush to Biti so that he can defend them in court. That is business for him, but I’m going ahead to prosecute those who have taken out assets from Zimbabwe, which belong to the people, which they have taken out, which under our laws if you export you are required under CD1 forms to remit the proceeds of exports of goods, which are Zimbabwean.

“So, if Biti says no, there is no requirement, let him defend them. He must feel very good about that,” an irritated Mnangagwa said.

Since last year, Zimbabwe’s tax agency has also been on a crusade to uncover billions of dollars in undeclared assets kept by Zimbabwean citizens in foreign countries amid a worsening liquidity crunch.

“It is the revenue authority’s view that because of globalisation and the anti-money laundering laws currently in place worldwide, the RBZ can and should trace, follow and bring back what was irregularly externalised through the banking system,” Zimbabwe Revenue Authority chairperson Willia Bonyongwe said in a revenue performance report for 2017.

Comments (1)

It's a stupid nonsensical list of its missing looters like Obese Mpofu or Supa plus all the Zanuoids who have plundered our lands. The biggest since Cecil John Rhodes

Moe Syslack - 20 March 2018

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