Zimbabwe Police Probe Telecoms Giant, Econet, Over Money Laundering

A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP
A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP


Zimbabwean police are investigating the country’s top mobile telephone operator Econet Wireless for suspected money laundering, according to a search warrant issued Friday.

Police want the telecommunications giant to disclose its customers’ details and records of all transactions conducted within the first half of 2020 as a stand-off between the government and the company mounts.

In a dramatic move, the government last month abruptly suspended mobile money transactions provided by telephone operators, the most widely used platform to make and receive payments in the crisis-ridden country.

The services continued for daily individual transactions but were capped for merchant transactions.

Information Ministry Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana blamed mobile money transfer platforms for galloping inflation, and said that the government was in “possession of impeccable intelligence” that telephone service providers were involved in illicit activities that were sabotaging the country’s economy.

The government also suspended all trade on the country’s stock exchange, which it accused of being complicit in illicit financial activities.

In Friday’s search warrant, police specialist investigator Mkhululi Nyoni said he had “reasonable grounds to suspect that Econet Wireless… is involved in money laundering activities”.

Police said there is information that the firm has fraudulently created fake subscribers to transfer mobile money to other accounts, to be converted to cash.

“The runners would in turn buy foreign currency in the black market before being externalised (abroad),” said the warrant.

The company, which has some 10.5 million customers, was ordered to surrender all the requested documents within seven days.

Econet’s spokesman Fungai Mandiveyi declined to comment.

Mobile money payments account for most electronic payment transactions in the country, which is critically short of bank notes.

Zimbabwe is being buffeted by its worst economic crisis in over a decade, including scarcity of basics like fuel and cornmeal.



China Pays Tribute To ‘Outstanding’ Zimbabwe’s Leader Mugabe


Beijing paid tribute to Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe whose death was announced Friday, saying he was an “outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician”.

China was one of the staunchest supporters of Mugabe, who ruled with an iron fist from 1980 to 2017. His death at the age of 95 was announced by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Mugabe was an outstanding national liberation movement leader and politician of Zimbabwe,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing.

“Throughout his life, he has firmly defended the sovereignty of his country, opposed foreign interference, and actively promoted China-Zimbabwe and China-Africa friendship and cooperation,” said Geng.

Relations between China and Zimbabwe date back to the liberation struggle of the 1960s, when Beijing provided arms and trained some of the top guerrilla leaders.

READ ALSO: Buhari Mourns Zimbabwe’s Ex-President Robert Mugabe

Beijing remained one of Mugabe’s most powerful allies and a major trade partner, even as the West shunned him over his government’s human rights violations.

Mugabe had been battling ill health, and after he was ousted by previously loyal military generals in November 2017 his stamina seeped away rapidly.

He was hospitalised in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, Mnangagwa had confirmed earlier this year.

No further details were immediately available about the circumstances of his death, or where he died.

China has funded and provided loans for many infrastructure projects across Africa in recent years, including the new parliament building in Zimbabwe.

Last year President Xi Jinping greeted Mnangagwa as an “old friend” of China when the African leader visited Beijing.