BY MTHANDAZO NYONI/MISHMA CHAKANYUKA
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has reportedly frozen bank accounts held by four companies suspected of engaging in money-laundering activities and fuelling the foreign currency parallel market.
One of the companies, Sakunda Holdings, is run by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s close ally and adviser, Kudakwashe Tagwirei.
Tagwirei is a member of a 26-member Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) named by Mnangagwa early this year to advise and assist him in formulating key economic policies and push through his vision for an upper middle-class economy by 2030.
The advisory council comprises experts and leaders drawn from diverse sectors like business, health and social protection, agriculture, governance and human rights, faith-based organisations, tourism, education, minorities, ICT, civic society, communication and media management.
The raid on his accounts came a day after the local currency took a dramatic tumble, with RBZ officials expressing fears that the firms were behind the thriving foreign currency parallel market.
In a leaked memo dated September 19 and sent to all banks operating in the country, acting head of the RBZ’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Wonder Kapofu, ordered a freeze of all accounts held by Sakunda, Access Finance, Spartan Security and Croco Motors and related entities.
“The FIU is carrying out analysis on the above named entities and their sister group companies. As we carry out further analysis, you are directed to freeze, with immediate effect, all accounts held in the names of the listed entities until further notice,” part of the memo reads.
“You shall not process any withdrawals or transfers from the accounts. You should, however, allow deposits or other flows into the accounts. Please acknowledge receipt of this directive in writing, confirming that you have frozen the accounts and confirming the account balance as at the date of freezing,” it further reads.
Efforts to get a comment from RBZ governor John Mangudya drew blanks yesterday as his mobile phone remained unreachable.
RBZ deputy governor Kupukile Mlambo could not confirm the memo, saying investigations on financial matters fell under the FIU.
“Investigations on financial matters fall under the Financial Intelligence (Unit). Who signed the memo?” Mlambo asked before advising NewsDay Weekender to call Kapofu.
Kapofu declined to comment, saying all queries concerning the RBZ were handled by the central bank’s public relations department.
“Unfortunately, all queries are directed to public relations,” Kapofu said.
The RBZ’s public relations department could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print last night.
Sakunda is a diversified firm which started off as a petroleum company.
Its owner, Tagwirei, was heavily involved in the Command Agriculture scheme that started in 2016 with his company, Sakunda, being the financier.
Under the scheme, close to US$3 billion was disbursed, but there are no records to show how it was utilised, according to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
Access Finance is a specialised financial services firm with operations in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Croco Motors, a subsidiary of Croco Holdings, was formed in October 1988 initially specialising in the sale of used vehicles and spare parts until the time it acquired the Mazda dealership in 1989.
It has a diversified reach and interests mainly in the automotive value chain such as new and approved used vehicle sales, vehicle service, vehicle parts and accessories sales.
The company holds the franchises for Ford, KIA, Renault, UD Trucks, Eicher Trucks, Volvo Trucks and is a dealer for Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, New Holland tractors, Higer Yutong and many others.
The broad business model is the sale of new and approved used vehicles, vehicle service, the supply and sale of genuine spare parts and accessories and auto body repairs.
Spartan Security is reportedly linked to the Mnangagwa family through one of his sons.
Yesterday morning, the United States dollar was trading for up to 30 Zimbabwe dollars on the parallel market and 1:14,43 on the official market.
The previous day, the parallel market rate had opened at 17 before jumping to 23 by afternoon, before dropping significantly following the raid by the RBZ.