Zimbabwe freezes dozens of bank accounts over forex peddling

The government has been struggling to promote local currency since it was temporarily ditched in 2009 favour of the US dollar and others due to hyperinflation.

A man holds bond notes released by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in Harare central business centre on 28 November 2016. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - Zimbabwe's central bank has frozen the bank accounts of 30 individuals accused of illicitly exchanging foreign currency through mobile phones and social media, it said Tuesday.

The government has been struggling to promote local currency since it was temporarily ditched in 2009 favour of the US dollar and others due to hyperinflation.

But greenbacks fell short, prompting the central bank to introduce new banknotes in 2016.

Local money has continued to devalue, however, and highly-demanded foreign currency is traded more on the black market at better rates than the official.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on Tuesday said its intelligence unit (FIU) had identified 30 individuals "abusing mobile telecommunications services and other social media platforms" for "illegal foreign exchange transactions and money laundering".

"The FIU has instructed banks... and other financial service providers to identify and freeze accounts operated by these individuals," it said in a statement.

The accused have also been barred from accessing financial services for two years, and risk being blocked by mobile operators.

Zimbabwe is still reeling from decades of financial mismanagement under its late former president Robert Mugabe.

The southern African country has been in severe economic crisis for years, during which many have helplessly watched their savings evaporate and prices soar.

Manufacturing and exports have shrunk, and foreign currency is continuously in short supply.

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