Another day another interesting regulatory measure by the Financial Intelligence Unit ( by extension the RBZ). This time the target being money changers operating on WhatsApp groups.
Here’s the FIUs full statement:
ACTION AGAINST ILLEGAL FOREIGN CURRENCY TRADING ADVERTS
1. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been monitoring social media platforms where foreign currency dealers have been advertising and promoting their illegal trade. The FIU is aware of WhatsApp groups that have mushroomed in the country for the specific purpose of promoting and facilitating illegal foreign currency trade.
2. The FIU, in collaboration with the police, banks, mobile money / mobile phone service providers and relevant regulatory agencies, has embarked on an exercise to identify and take action against individuals who create, advertise on or participate (actively or passively) in WhatsApp groups or other platforms for illegal foreign currency trading.
3. The FIU and relevant institutions will take the following immediate actions:
• The mobile phone numbers used to join or advertise on the illegal groups will be shared with mobile phone operators and POTRAZ for barring;
• Other mobile phone numbers registered in the names of such persons will also be identified and barred;
• Any mobile money wallets registered in the names of such persons will be frozen and the persons barred from accessing mobile money services with any operator;
• Bank accounts owned by a person so identified will be frozen and the person will be blacklisted and barred from accessing banking services with any bank; and
• Identified persons will be investigated and prosecuted for illegally trading in or advertising illegal trading in foreign currency.
4. Members of the public are requested to report to the FIU any person, mobile phone number or bank account that continue to be used to engage in or advertise illegal foreign currency activities, using the following contact details:
FIU mobile and WhatsApp number: 0714039897
Financial Intelligence Unit 15 June 2020
If that statement is too long for you to read, the FIU is basically saying, they are banning the advertisement of foreign currency trading on WhatsApp and if you’re caught promoting such your number will be barred.
Not only that but any other number registered in the same name will also be banned and so will be all mobile money accounts in the same name.
To take it a step further, bank accounts owned by people identified to be advertising money changing services on WhatsApp will also be banned and the persons responsible for the accounts will be blacklisted, meaning no future bank accounts for those caught doing.
Finally, those caught advertising illegal forex trade in WhatsApp groups will be prosecuted, though it’s not clear whether punishment will result in a fine or imprisonment.
Will this work?
Again, I still believe that the RBZ and the FIU are going down the wrong hole with all these measures. When they blocked EcoCash agents a month ago – they rate actually skyrocketed and even after placing those limits, the effects are yet to be felt by ordinary Zimbabweans.
The biggest problem right now is the fact that the RBZ has refused to remove the fixed rate and when they have done so they have always reverted back to a fixed rate. First it was 1:1, then 3:1 and then weirdly 25:1 because of COVID-19.
The market has always reacted negatively to these fixed rates because they are not a true reflection of the strength of the ZW$ but instead just a way for the political elite to access forex at a much lower rate than businesses and citizens.