Mozambique: Kidnappers Using Accounts Abroad, Say Police

Maputo — The gangs kidnapping business people in Mozambique have recently demanded that the families of their victims deposit the ransom demanded in bank accounts abroad, and this is helping run down Mozambique reserves of foreign currency, according to the General Commander of the Mozambican police, Bernadino Rafael, cited in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily, "Noticias".

Rafael made this incredible, and unsubstantiated claim at an Extraordinary Council of the police force held in Maputo last weekend.

He said that, by demanding that ransom payments be made abroad, the kidnappers were trying to throw the police investigators off their trail. These payments, he claimed, cause "incalculable damage" to the Mozambican economy.

Rafael said criminal investigation teams have been instructed "to check in whose names the accounts abroad have been opened, and how much money has been deposited in those accounts. We want to know the names, the bank and the country, so that we can act, in order to hold the criminals responsible".

Rafael said that, in the first six months of this year, there had been seven kidnappings, compared with ten in the same period of 2019. The police rescued two of this year's kidnap victims, and two others were freed by the kidnappers after large sums had been paid, supposedly to accounts abroad.

But Rafael's claim makes no sense. Nobody can walk into a Mozambican bank and transfer a million dollars to Dubai (or to anywhere else). All transfers of large sums of foreign currency must be authorised by the Bank of Mozambique.

Furthermore, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Mozambique regularly publishes details of the country's foreign reserves, and these show no sign of being run down.

The latest statement from the Monetary Policy Committee, dated 17 June, said that since April the national banking system had purchased 1.096 billion dollars in foreign exchange on the domestic market, and had sold 1.022 billion dollars to clients, leaving a surplus of 74 million dollars.

Between April and June, Mozambique's international reserves increased by 321 million dollars, reaching a total of four billion dollars (enough to cover six months of exports).

"The market has enough foreign exchange to support economic activity in the short and medium terms", the central bank declared.

In December 2019, the gross foreign reserves stood at 3.661 billion dollars. So far from the reserves being run down, as Rafael had claimed, they have actually increased by about nine per cent over the past six months.

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