Money laundering suspects to remain in custody

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SIX people, who were arrested in a suspected foreign currency and money laundering scam involving $5 billion using a mobile money transfer platform, will have to stay in prison as their fate is yet to be
decided.
Simbarashe Charamba, Felix Tafadzwa Chikuse and their companies Family First Choice Supermarket and Bailey Charamba Investments are jointly charged with Vimbai Charamba, Rudo Charamba, Shumirai Charamba and
Georgina Kabanda who are facing allegations of dealing in currency and money laundering.

They have since challenged their placement on remand, arguing the allegations do not disclose an offence recognised at law.

The matter was supposed to be argued on Tuesday, but could not proceed as the State had not responded to their application after one of the prosecutors working on the case suffered a family bereavement.

State counsel Michael Reza told regional magistrate Bianca Makwande that he will file the response to their application today and they will be back in court on Wednesday for oral arguments.

The six are already in remand prison having been denied bail in the initial allegations involving $145 million. In that case, the State argued that the six were behind the fluctuation of the black market exchange rate in the country using mobile money to buy hard currency on the parallel market.

“Any foreign currency transactions carried out in the name of the 1st and 2nd Accused’s (Bailey Charamba Investments and Family First Choice) bank accounts or EcoCash Accounts would be legitimate regular and lawful on account of the fact that such transactions are deemed to have been actuated by utilising ‘free funds’.
“In terms of s 11 (2) (a) of the Exchange Control Regulations SI 109 of 1996 no criminal liability accrues in relation to “any act done by an individual with free funds which were available to him at the time of the act concerned,” their lawyer

Tawanda Zhuwarara argued. The prosecution alleges that between January 1 and June 30 this year, Simbarashe Charamba acting in connivance with his co-accused manipulated the mobile money platform by registering a bulk payer agent line and number of agent lines which he used to facilitate the purchase of foreign currency from
the general public.

Employees at Family First Choice Supermarket allegedly conducted transactions from the supermarket office in a specific direction by Charamba for them to buy foreign currency from the parallel market.

In pursuing their alleged arrangement, the State alleges that between January and June this year transacted a total of $4 979 643 231.81 through the bulk agent line and redistributed it to the 40 different Bailey Charamba

Investments agent lines in order to disguise the illicit origins of the money. Chikuse and Georgina Kabanda
as the directors of Bailey Charamba Investments received commission from Charamba monthly as the registered owners of the 40 agent  lines which were used in facilitating the transactions.

The State alleges that their actions were in violation of the exchange control act as read with the money laundering and proceeds of crime act.

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