Zimbabwe: RBZ Restricts Bank Account Transactions

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Bank customers are now limited to two internal transactions a day, that is transactions to account holders with the same bank, as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) steps up efforts to starve the forex black-market of transaction liquidity.

The move follows restrictions on the sums that can be transferred by mobile money agents and on the Zipit platform, transactions are restricted to $20 000 a day and $100 000 a month, restrictions that saw a switch to internal transfers to "runners" buying the foreign exchange.

RTGS transactions are not affected by the latest ruling, but banks have been told to exercise "due diligence" when approving these. RTGS transactions require more information than other transactions and the RBZ is able to see these details as the transactions take place.

For those account-holders who have genuine reasons to need more than two internal transfers in a day, bank managers can give explicit permission.

The new restriction was announced by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in a statement yesterday.

After the curbs on mobile money transactions, some dealing illegally in forex have been advertising higher rates on the black-market, and that in turn has fed inflation as businesses index prices to this black-market rate.

Black market rates for forex are between $58 and $77 to the US dollar.

FIU acting director-general Mr Oliver Chiperesa wrote to banks to say his unit had noted a sharp rise in the "abuse of the internal bank transfers facility for purposes of parallel market dealings".

"We have noted a trend where entities are using their bank accounts to buy foreign currency, using a network of 'runners' some of whom have been advertising their services on social media. These illicit transactions manifest in the form of daily multiple payments from one account to beneficiaries who hold accounts in the same bank," said Mr Chiperesa.

To curb the practice, banks have, with immediate effect, been directed to ensure each bank customer does not make more than two internal bank transfer transactions per day, regardless of values involved.

Mr Chiperesa said where a customer has a genuine and proven need to conduct more than two internal bank transfers per day, the customer must obtain approval from bank management, whether at head office or at branch level.

Banks have also been directed to submit daily returns to the FIU, giving details of such transactions and the underlying business purpose. Individual banks may implement any additional controls on internal or interbank transfers as they see fit, said Mr Chiperesa.

The FIU is now adopting strict enforcement measures against banks that are found to be complicit in allowing their clients to conduct illicit transactions.

While the restrictions do not have much effect on pavement dealers with their small turnover, they do hammer those who agglomerate the small dealings into the larger block required by those speculating in or hoarding black market currency.

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