RBZ to clamp down on accounts that swipe RTGS in exchange for USD

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has put out a directive for banks to report individuals who use their local currency cards to swipe transactions in exchange for forex, in a move the central bank classifies as ‘illegal USD exchanges.’

The FIU said it has noted an increasing abuse of debit cards linked to the Zimbabwean Dollar denominated bank accounts, where local card holders approach customers who intend to buy goods or pay for services in foreign currency.

These card holders then offer the use of their RTGS bank cards in return for foreign currency at an agreed rate.

Director General of FIU, Oliver Chiperesa, advised banks that in line with the country’s financial regulations, they were supposed to report and close bank accounts of such individuals who conducted such transactions.

“In the course of discharging AML/CFT obligations, banks are expected to identify and report those transactions as suspicious and in case of repeated abuse, close the accounts and report the same to FIU,” he said in a statement.

Chiperesa noted that banks were directed to implement certain measures to curb the abuse of bank accounts and debit cards.

“In particular, banks should implement a robust automated transaction monitoring mechanism to identify debit cards and the linked bank accounts that are being used frequently and in a pattern that raises suspicion that the customers is abusing the card to pay for goods and services on behalf of third parties,” said the FIU director general.

“Having identified such transactions and accounts the bank must carry out further analysis to establish the source of funding  into the accounts as well as the purpose and legitimacy of the payments.”

The FIU boss stated that if banks determine that accounts are being abused for third party payments they must file a suspicious transaction report to the FIU.

“In addition to filing STRs, banks should consider taking immediate steps to withdraw banking services in respect of the offending  customer. In appropriate cases, the bank may in its discretion , issue a final warning to a customer, before making a final decision to close the account,” Chiperesa said.

“Among other indicators, banks should pay attention to and investigate the following red flags especially where more than one indicator is present with respect to a single bank account or a bank account, which receives regular inflows from sources or for a purpose that cannot be readily verified, followed by frequent debit card payments to retailers and service providers.”

The FIU director general said when a debit card is used several times in a day, in the same shop, in a manner inconsistent with normal shopping patterns, and a debit card that is used to purchase goods and services either in the same shop or in different shops in a regular pattern that is not consistent with normal shopping patters banks are required to configure their system to monitor activities.

“Banks are required to: configure their automated transaction monitoring systems specifically to detect the abuse highlighted above, report to the FIU by no later than October 18, 2021 on the specific measures implemented and thereafter report any suspicious transactions as required to the FIU, as well as details of nay accounts that would have been closed as a result of this exercise, within seven days of such closure,” Chiperesa summed.

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