Courts and Law

Charamba family members arrested in $5 billion forex deals

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  • The State wants the six to be incarcerated, arguing they were behind the fluctuation of the exchange rate in the country using mobile money to buy hard currency on the parallel market.

SIX members of a prominent business family in Mutare – the Charambas – have been arraigned before a Harare magistrate on money-laundering charges involving $5 billion, which was orchestrated through their supermarket business to mop up foreign currency from the parallel market.

The court yesterday heard that the six accused persons allegedly conducted foreign currency dealings thorough Family First Choice and Bailey Charamba Investments, which are both supermarkets in the border city.

Simbarashe Charamba, Felix Tafadzwa Chikuse and their companies Family First Choice Supermarket and Bailey Charamba Investments were taken to court jointly charged with Vimbai Charamba, Rudo Charamba, Shumirai Charamba and Georgina Kabanda.

Bailey Charamba Investments director Felix Tafadzwa Chikuse (38), Family First Choice Supermarkets director Shumirai Charamba (26), Simbarashe Charamba (39), Vimbai Charamba (41), Rudo Charamba (36) and Georgina Kabanda (35) were not asked to plead when they appeared before magistrate Bianca Makwande.

It is alleged that between January 1 and June 30 this year Simbarashe Charamba acting in connivance with his co-accused manipulated the EcoCash mobile money platform by registering a bulk payer agent line and a number of agent lines which he used to facilitate the purchase of foreign currency from the general public.

Employees at Family First Choice Supermarket allegedly conducted transactions from the supermarket
office on specific direction by Charamba for them to buy foreign currency from the parallel market.

They are being charged for contravening section 5(1)(a) of the Exchange Control Act and section 8(1) of the Money-Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act, after they used an EcoCash agent line to buy foreign currency equivalent to $4 979 643 231,81

The State led by prosecutor Michael Reza alleges that between January and June 2020, Simbarashe connived with other accused persons and used an EcoCash bulky agent line and 40 agent lines to buy foreign currency on the black market.

Eleven Family First Choice Supermarkets employees under the instruction of Simbarashe and his accomplices bought foreign currency from the parallel market.

They used $4 979 643 231,81 through the bulk agent line and it was redistributed to 40 different agent lines under Bailey Investments to disguise the illicit transactions.

The State wants the six to be incarcerated, arguing they were behind the fluctuation of the exchange rate in the country using mobile money to buy hard currency on the parallel market.

Chikuse and Georgina Kabanda as the directors of Bailey Charamba Investments received commission from Charamba monthly as the registered owners of the 40 agent lines which were used in facilitating the transactions.

The investigating officer Fabian Mutambiro described the prominent family and the two companies as an organised crime syndicate.

They were remanded in custody to November 25, 2020.

The State is opposing bail on the basis that the accused were conducting their business informally and likely to abscond.

The State further argued that the accused committed a serious offence which attracts a custodial sentence.

Through their lawyer Brighton Pabwe of Venturas and Samkange, the accused challenged their placement on remand and the court will make a ruling on November 25, 2020. ■

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