TWO Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (EWZ) employees have been arrested for allegedly fraudulently using EcoCash agent lines belonging to cotton company ETG Parrogate to conduct illegal foreign currency transactions.
Osmond Wachenuka (25) based in Nyanga and Nigel Domboka (22) of Mutare appeared before the Chipinge Magistrate Court last Friday and were remanded in custody to May 22.
A third suspect, Nyasha Nyatsungo, who is a former EWZ employee, is reportedly on the run. It is the State’s case that on April 25 this year, Domboka, who is employed by Econet as an independent contract worker in Nyanga, connived with Nyatsungo to reactivate ETG Parrogate’s merchant lines (0785 042 957, 0776 942 363, 0785 042 957 and 0776 448 826), which had been dormant from August last year to April 25 this year and were kept at the company’s safe at Checheche Growth Point in Chipinge.
RELATED READING: RBZ, ECONET’S ECOCASH CASE TAKES SURPRISE TURN
The co-accused, who reportedly had access to Econet’s database, subsequently obtained the merchant codes and company profile particulars and sent them to Wachenuka, who was responsible for data capture at Econet Mutare.
He reactivated the lines after allegedly misrepresenting to his employers that Parrogate wanted a SIM replacement and PIN reset.
“The accused (Wachenuka) then sold the merchant lines to different people without Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s knowledge or authority since they were on high demand.
‘‘One of the merchant lines — number 0785 042 957, was sold to Kudakwashe Mashangwa, who used it to transfer large volumes of money between April 25 and April 30, 2020.
“On April 30, 2020, ETG Parrogate Zimbabwe received an e-mail message from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe informing that it was suspected to be involved in illicit foreign currency deals using one of its merchant line numbers, resulting in the RBZ freezing all the company’s bank and mobile money accounts,” the State alleges.
Subsequent investigations, which revealed that more than $2,8 million was deposited in the company’s agent line in question and used for questionable transactions, led to the duo’s arrest.
The alleged scam was discovered by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) during its routine monitoring of suspicious financial transactions.
The central bank last week closed an unspecified number of mobile money agent line accounts suspected to have been fuelling black market foreign currency activities, which are widely blamed for the volatile exchange rate.
The suspensions affected a number of mobile money agent lines accounts across all networks. The majority of financial transactions in Zimbabwe are conducted on mobile platforms, with EcoCash accounting for about 95 percent of the volumes.
Preliminary investigations from the FIU show that transactions valued at more than $75 million were being processed through agent lines even though the nature of their businesses did not support such huge amounts.
Claims that some of the agent lines were in overdraft have also been equally worrying to investigators. Transactions on these lines were reportedly disproportionately high despite the lockdown, which began on March 30.