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High Court suspends police search warrant against Econet

HARARE – The High Court on Wednesday suspended a police search warrant against mobile telecoms firm Econet Wireless which sought to force it to turn over details of subscribers and transactions as part of a money-laundering probe.

Econet, the country’s biggest operator, had argued in an urgent application that the information sought by the police covering six months was too broad in scope, and would violate its privacy and that of its clients.

Justice Edith Mushore granted an interim order sought by Econet to revoke the warrant, whose legality will be determined at a full hearing in future.

The judge said “this is not Rhodesia” as she criticised the draconian ambitions of the warrant.

“The judge said the warrant was too wide, that it cannot operate against the whole country as it assays to do,” one of Econet’s lawyers Advocate Thabani Mpofu said outside court.

“The judge ruled that if there’s any criminality, the warrant should be limited to those individuals against whom allegations are made. As it is, the judge ruled that the warrant is burdensome and a breach of everyone’s right to privacy.”

The Media Institute for Southern Africa, a media freedom organisation and ZimRights this week also asked the court to stop Econet, which has 11.4 million subscribers, from complying with the police warrant in order to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of clients’ information.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government says black market foreign currency traders are using Econet’s mobile money platform, EcoCash, to undermine the local currency and launder money.

Econet said in court papers the accusations were “ridiculous” and part of a plot to undermine its market leadership position. – Reuters

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