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10-Year Jail Sentence For Illegal Foreign Currency Dealers

The Zimbabwean President, Doctor Emmerson Mnangagwa has used temporary powers for a new law. The regulations will come into effect tomorrow (Monday 12 November 2018). The new law will see illegal currency traders being sentenced for up to ten years in jail, while unexplained wealth will be confiscated.

Government’s intention will be track unexplained movement of money in the financial system. President Mnangagwa’s intervention (which involves amending the Exchange Control and Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Acts) is through constitutional provisions of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba said that President Mnangagwa had signed the law that will be gazetted. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority have been empowered to pursue perpetrators of financial crime.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said: “Our teams have been working tirelessly on the laws for the past few weeks and the legislation is ready for gazetting. It will be issued through an Extraordinary Government Gazette.”

Parliament needs to approve the law within six months to make it permanent. The new law prescribes a maximum 10-year custodial sentence for illegal currency traders. Authorities will be empowered (through the Unexplained Wealth Orders Statute) to confiscate ill-gotten wealth.

In the past month of October 2018 the police officers were rounding up illegal foreign currency dealers. However many Zimbabweans are involved in the informal sector of business and do not have access to foreign currency from the bank.

The economy has deteriorated and prices of basic commodities have increased this new law may push people to their limit. This is so because some business traders are demanding payment in foreign currency (USD). One the other hand Zimbabweans are at a risk as exchanging money will attract a 10-year prison sentence.

What will happen to all the Zimbabweans who rely on money changers in order to get their small business going? Will the banks be helping regular citizens get hold of foreign currency, or does the government has a plan of incorporating bureau de change?

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