Six deny money laundering charges

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Blessing Masakadza

SENIOR STAFF WRITER

masakadzab@dailynews.co.zw

SIX people who were arrested for a suspected money laundering scam involving $5 billion, have denied the allegations, claiming the money was free funds.

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 on allegations of illegally dealing in foreign currency and money laundering.

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

The six are challenging their placement on remand on the $5 billion charge.

“The Exchange Control Directive No. 1 of 2009 states that balances in corporate accounts deposited with foreign currency proceeds emanating from commercial activities within Zimbabwe shall be treated as free funds.

“Any foreign currency transactions carried out in the name of the first and second accused (Bailey Charamba Investments and Family First Choice) bank accounts or (mobile) 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 … 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 lawyers argued.

The State will respond to the application today and the parties return to court on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Michael Reza alleges that between January 1 and June 30 this year, Simbarashe Charamba, acting in connivance with his co-accused, manipulated a 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 public.

Employees at Family First Choice Supermarket allegedly conducted transactions from the supermarket office on the 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,  they 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 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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