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Zim central bank pressured to act on Panama Papers

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Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe’s central bank has been pressured to investigate illegal dealings by Zimbabwean businessmen and executives named in the Panama Papers, a horde of leaked documents detailing offshore dealings.

Alex Mhembere, chief executive officer of Zimplats has been named as well as other executives from Innscor. Zimplats has also been named as having paid management through offshore accounts but Implats has refuted this, saying it has no knowledge of the offshore company.

About 279 other businessmen, tycoons and executives have been fingered in the papers leaked from Panama law firm, Mosack Fonseca. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had said the offshore dealings were more about morality than illegality but it has now emerged that the central bank has started investigations into those named in the Panama Papers.

READ: Panama Papers: Zim execs may get off scot-free

“Investigations have been started and the more prominent executives and businessmen are being probed.

“This is an instruction that has come and which the central bank has to act on given the serious nature of illicit financial flows and foreign currency externalisation in Zimbabwe,” said a government official on Friday.

Morris Mpofu, head of the exchange control department at the central bank said at a mining conference in Victoria Falls on Friday that although some of the names on the Panama Papers list had externalised free funds, there are others that had potentially violated exchange control regulations.

“The reserve bank is investigating Panama. There are people on the list who externalised illegally and we are now surfing through that list.

“But it is not everyone on the list who externalised illegally, there are some who had free funds but there are those who used corporate funds and externalised,” he said.

Zimbabwe is battling a severe liquidity crisis that has led to cash shortages in the economy. The government is set to introduce a local currency bonded against a $200m facility from Afreximbank to help ease the cash shortages.

There has been public outrage over the introduction of the new bond notes but the government has stuck to its guns. A plan to have all foreign exchange export receipts to be converted into rands, euros and US dollars.

The Panama Papers have been investigated by the International Centre for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Concerns have been raised over possible tax dodging and avoidance through offshore accounts and international tax havens.

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