President Emmerson Mnangagwa has granted a three-month moratorium within which individuals and corporates that externalised money and assets are expected to bring them back.
The amnesty will stretch from December 1 to February 28, 2018. During the period, Government will neither ask questions nor prefer charges against those that will be repatriating back the money or assets.
Non-compliant individuals and companies will be arrested and prosecuted in terms of the country's laws. In a statement yesterday, President Mnangagwa said activities linked to Operation Restore Legacy had helped uncover cases where huge sums of money and other assets were illegally externalised by certain individuals and corporates.
"Needless to say, such malpractices constitute a very serious economic crime against the people of Zimbabwe, which the Government of Zimbabwe will never condone," said President Mnangagwa.
"As a first step towards the recovery of the illegally externalised funds and assets, the Government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets, with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them.
"The period of this amnesty stretches from 1st December, 2017, to the end of February 2018. Affected persons who wish to comply with this directive should liaise with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for necessary facilitation and accounting."
The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said it was advisable for those that had externalised funds to comply to avoid the "pain" and "ignominy" of being made to account through the legal system.
"Upon the expiry of the three-month window, Government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive, and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country's laws," said President Mnangagwa.
"Those affected are thus encouraged to take advantage of the three-month moratorium to return the illegally externalised funds and assets, in order to avoid the pain and ignominy of being visited by the longer arm of the law."
Central bank statistics indicate that an estimated $3 billion was externalised between 2015 and 2017 to countries such as Mauritius, in the Far East and Botswana, although the figure could be far much higher. It is believed that of the $3 billion, about $1,8 billion was spirited away illegally, while the balance was expatriated through management fees, service fees, technical fees and royalties.
The apex bank also estimates that the country lost on average $150 million monthly in 2015 to illicit financial flows. The Bank Use and Promotion Act prohibits capital flight and money laundering. Corporate malfeasance and general indiscipline in the financial services sector, including externalisation, have been some of the factors blamed for cash shortages in the economy.
Local industry is bullish that efforts by the new administration to restore discipline in the market will be able to positively reset the economy. Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe said if all the money that was externalised was repatriated, it would result in a surplus that would naturally restore the value of the bond note.
"When you look at the amounts involved ($3 billion) relative to our annual requirements, it means if this money finds its way back on the local market, it will result in a surplus," he said.
"Hopefully, now with the new dispensation, which has already seen the black market crashing and a correction of stock market prices, the market will return to normal. Mr Jabangwe said there was renewed confidence and optimism in the market, and President Mnangagwa had to be given the opportunity to run with his agenda.
Of late, the mining sector has also been caught up in allegations of externalising large amounts of money.
A recent academic study, conducted by Marko Kwaramba, senior lecturer at the University of Free State (SA); Nyasha Mahonye, senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand; and Leornard Mandishora, a researcher at the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, indicated that there was rampant misinvoicing, particularly for minerals such as diamonds, gold and nickel.
It concluded that in the 13-year period through 2013, export misinvoicing of diamonds - which experts say is often done for tax evasion and avoidance, money laundering, and quota avoidance - topped US$1,3 billion.