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Ex-Minister Simba Makoni in court for using black market exchange rate

By Shami Makombe

FORMER Finance Minister and 2008 Presidential election contestant Simba Makoni is due to appear in court facing charges of violating the Exchange Control Act.

The Exchange Control Act prohibits the selling, displaying and offering of goods or services for sale, above the official exchange rate in Zimbabwe.

The veteran politician’s trial will begin on February 17. He is accused of selling products, at his Power Speed Electrical Shop in Harare, above the official rate of $88.55.

Government authorities accuse businesses of receiving foreign currency at official rates from the forex auction system, but pricing their goods at black market rates, making a killing while while stoking inflation.

It is said that on October 6 last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe received information that some companies were procuring foreign currency at the forex auction, and selling their products above the official exchange rate.

The Reserve Bank Exchange Control Department deployed its officers who approached a number of retail outlets.

The following day, John Mashal Chinembiri and Tanaka Lincoln Sanyamahwe, from the Reserve Bank Financial Intelligence Unit Department, visited Makoni’s shop.

Chinembiri bought 750ml of Benzine for $423,65 while Sanyamahwe purchased the same product for US$2,42.

The State alleged the two were issued with point of sale receipts reflecting a rate of $175 per US$1.

Makoni, who is jointly charged with his company, appeared before Harare regional magistrate, Stanford Mambanje.

Last week, the RBZ warned businesses against manipulating the local currency saying it would deploy all tools at its disposal to deal with the financial malpractice.

Central bank Governor John Mangudya warned that those found on the wrong side of the law will face censor which may include fines, freezing of banking assets or even blacklisting from enjoyment of financial services.

The Zimbabwe dollar has been pegged at $108.67 against the United States dollar since the last foreign currency auction on 14 December.

In a statement last Wednesday, the central bank said its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was investigating cases of breaches of the Bank Use Promotion Act and currency manipulations by some business entities.

“The breaches have become particularly pronounced and prevalent at some schools and pharmacies,” it said.

“The FIU will deploy all tools at its disposal to deal with such malpractices including imposition of fines, freezing of bank accounts and blacklisting from enjoyment of financial services.”

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