HARARE – Individuals and companies that illegally externalised significant amounts of money from the country are returning the money, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya has said.
This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the looters are known and will be prosecuted if they do not heed his call.
In November, the new president announced a three-month amnesty under which illegally externalised funds could be brought back into the country with no risk of prosecution for those involved.
Early last month, government amended the Exchange Control Act through Statutory Instrument 145 of 2017 to grant amnesty to those who illegally took out of Zimbabwe funds until February 28.
“Indeed the response is quite positive,” Mangudya told the Daily News yesterday.
Misheck Sibanda, the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, told reporters that the expiry of the moratorium would be followed by arrests and prosecution of culprits.
“After February, legal action will be taken and arrests will be made. The looters are known,” Sibanda said.
In the event of a conviction, the courts can impose a fine not exceeding the value of the currency or a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, the whole of which can be suspended on condition that the currency is repatriated to Zimbabwe within a specified period.
The statutes also allow the courts to impose harsher penalties unless the convicted person satisfies the court that there are special reasons in the particular case, which shall be recorded by the court, why a lesser fine should be imposed.
According to Statutory Instrument 145 of 2017, the RBZ governor is empowered to “do anything necessary for the efficient and effective application or implementation of the schedule” while compliance will be enforced by the RBZ’s Exchange Control Inspectorate Department.
According to the Statutory Instrument, only applicants who fully disclose details on the externalised funds will benefit from the moratorium.
The amendment reads “the amnesty granted to any applicant shall be withdrawn and thereby nullified if — (a) the applicant makes, in relation to the illegally expatriated property in relation to which amnesty is sought, any wilfully false declaration to the Reserve Bank in applying for the amnesty; or (b) the applicant fails to timeously repatriate the property in accordance with paragraph 5.”
Experts blame the loss of confidence in the country’s tottering economy which has seen the elite, in particular, preferring to keep their earnings in safe havens in contravention of the law.
The apex bank estimates that during the course of 2015, for example, $684 million was externalised by individuals for various purposes that include donations, investments, account transfers etc.
In addition, $1,2 billion export sales proceeds were externalised by firms through transfer pricing, under-invoicing and high management and expert fees.
The RBZ is currently investigating leads obtained from the Panama Papers whereby nearly 300 Zimbabweans were said to have committed serious economic crimes.
The Panama Papers refer to an unprecedented leak of 11,5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).