ZIMBABWE’S Criminal Investigations Department (CID) last week told parliament that there was a flood of counterfeit American dollar notes – coming mainly in the three largest denomination
s – allegedly traded by east and West Africans.
Giving testimony before a foreign and industrial affairs parliamentary committee, the CID’s Senior Assistant Commissioner Steven Mutamba said there was a new way of forging United States dollars, whereby offenders use “a special kind of paper” and ink to make US$20, $50 and $100 bills.
“For them (racketeers) to win your confidence, they pour a special kind of liquid on equally deceptive money making paper and you can get US$50, US$20, US$100 notes,” Mutamba told the Phillip Chiyangwa-led committee.
He noted that the fake notes “appeared so genuine” that some gullible banks and members of the public had fallen for the con and accepting them as real changeable tender.
“Some of our bank tellers have fallen victim to this scam. Others have even taken money from their (bank) tills hoping to make money quickly,” the police investigative chief said.
Further quizzed by the “state of foreign goods”, immigrants and residence status committee on how the paper “inexplicably” turns into real money and where it could be emanating from, Mutamba failed to offer an explanation, emphasising though that a number of people including MPs had been ripped off.
He could, however, not rule out that the paper could have been stolen from money printers internationally.
Apart from failing to prove an inherent link between offenders of the Banking Act, particularly those dealing in foreign currency illegally, and at-large members of the international ring, Mutamba conceded defeat in the Zimbabwean police’s efforts to nab any US dollar contraband suspects.
Instead, Mutamba’s troops claimed to have recently seized a US$5 000 bounty in Harare – of genuine notes – meant for the pesky unofficial market of foreign cash.
The police chief would also not quantify how many fake greenbacks were in circulation, although the scourge is rife regionally and notably in diamond-rich Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
And in remarks set to trigger diplomatic rancour and scotch Zimbabwe’s rallying cries about alleged Botswana and South African xenophobia, Mutamba ascribed the proliferation of this economic crime to Congolese, Liberian, Mozambican and Senegalese nationals, whose local habitation status could not be readily ascertained.
Mutamba said those found in breach of Zimbabwean banking laws, particularly holders of fake bearers’ cheques and legal tender, were fined a measly $5,2 million.
To bolster his charge, which he said was also being helped by Zimbabwean accomplices, Senior Assistant Commissioner Mutamba said there has been an increase in crimes committed by foreigners this year and that his department stands ready to provide statistics.
In addition to financial crimes, outsiders were also involved in drug and narcotics peddling.
Noting that close to 600 foreign nationals apply for citizenship annually, Mutamba rallied home affairs officials to be more stringent on vetting and asylum granting measures. People from as far afield as Pakistani seek residence status in Zimbabwe.