POLICE in Lusaka have arrested two people in connection with the illegal sale of the new 50 ngwee coins which are said to be melted to extract some precious minerals.
The coins, which are traded secretly on the streets of the capital city, are believed to contain gold, and an illegal syndicate is aimed at extracting the precious metal for jewellery.
Lusaka Province Police Commissioner Lemmy Kajoba confirmed the arrest of the two although he could not name the individuals who are currently in police custody.
"Police arrested two people in the streets of Lusaka to help with investigations in the 50 ngwee coins scam," Mr Kajoba said.
The coins are being secretly bought in some streets of Lusaka, including the notorious Katondo Street, at between K15 and K25 while some Lebanese are said to be buying at K50 per coin.
According to people talked to in Lusaka, buyers do not stay in one place for fear of being arrested by the police.
"The Lebanese are the ones that are melting the coins and are making various products that are very expensive," said one of the residents who had witnessed the sale.
Bank of Zambia head of public relations Kanguya Mayondi said the central bank was aware about the illegal act and had started sensitising the public against the practice which he said was criminal.
"The bank is aware of this vice and has already begun sensitising members of the public about not risking their freedom by committing a crime through smelting of the country's currency," Mr Mayondi said in response to a Press query.
Mr Mayondi, however, arrayed fears that the vice could pose any threat to the country's economy, saying the illegal activity was not widespread.
He said there was no content of gold in any of the Zambian coins currently in circulation as they were made of alloy metals which were not precious as people would want to believe.
The Bank of Zambia will continue to sensitise members of the public through the media and directly on issues pertaining to the nation's currency, including the clean note policy.
The continued use of all denominations of the currency family such as the five and 10 ngwee coins as well as all other denominations within the country will continue.
Investigations by the Sunday Times discovered that the coins for 2013 were the main target and were selling like a hot cakes on the streets.
Mr Kajoba said police were investigating the matter although the two people who had been arrested are still in custody.