The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has ordered the Econet Wireless Zimbabwe owned Steward Bank to restrict payments into its Ecocash Private Limited’s Mobile Money Trust (MMT) account due to alleged abuse of the facility for illicit foreign currency dealings, 263Chat Business has learnt.
The move means Steward Bank will not receive or process any payment Into Ecocash MMT account from a third party person or entity who is not an account-holder with the bank.
“We have noted rampant abuse of the mobile money platforms for purpose of illicit foreign currency dealings and money laundering. We have noted huge daily inflows into the MMT account, without any apparent underlying business rationale,” the RBZ’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) wrote in a letter to Steward Bank.
Furthermore, the customer of the bank shall only be allowed to pay into the Ecocash MMT account, funds not exceeding ZWL$ 100 000 per month in line with the agent/bulk payer monthly limits currently in force.
However, this publication has observed that most illegal money changers are now using merchant lines to transact in order to avert the ZWL$ 100 000 monthly limit on agent and bulk payer lines.
Mobile money service providers has already been directed to undertake an agent re-licensing and know-your-customer enhancement exercise to ensure that only bona-fide entities are allowed to continue transacting on the respective mobile money platforms.
Ecocash, with over 80 percent market share in mobile money business in the country has in recent times come under scrutiny from the Central Bank over illicit foreign currency dealings and money laundering activities on its platform.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya recently described Ecocash as a Ponzi scheme alleging the mobile money platform through its agents has an overdraft on its accounts in excess of ZW$39 million believed to have been used to buy foreign currency and inflate the exchange rate.
Earlier this year, the European Union added Zimbabwe to its list of states that pose a financial risk to the bloc because of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing shortfalls.
Zimbabwe has struggled to curb the burgeoning black market trading activities, a development that has brought exchange rate instability.