CASH barons who have been accused of fuelling parallel market currency rates and a raft of other economic ills will now face up to two years in prison if they fail to explain the source of their wealth, while street dealers also face arrest if they fail to explain their business at street corners to police officers.
According to new regulations gazetted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday, police officers can randomly search or nab those that they suspect to be dealing in foreign currency from public places such as streets, roads, passages, parks or recreation grounds.
“If any authorised officer or police officer, acting to enforce section 4, finds any person frequenting, loitering in or lingering about any public place in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he or she is dealing in currency in contravention of section 4(1)(a), such a person may be required by the officer to give an explanation of his or her presence in or about the public place, and of his or her conduct thereat, and to produce to the law enforcement agent any identity document, and to show to the agent any currency or property in his or her immediate possession or under his or immediate control and to account to the agent of his or her possession or control of the same,” the regulations read in part.
The government published similar regulations last September, but there were no major arrests.
The new legislation says the High Court may grant an order in respect of any property with a value of over $10 000 that might be deemed ill-gotten.
According to the extraordinary gazette, the wealth must be explained only in terms of known sources of income.
“At the same time and before the same court that an application for an unexplained wealth order is made under section 37B, the applicant enforcement authority may apply for an interim freezing order in respect of all or part of the property that is the subject of the unexplained wealth order applied for,” the gazette reads.
The new law seeks to punish those who may give false information on the unexplained wealth by imposing a fine of $65 000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years.
However, there is room for compensation for those that are illegally affected by the freeze.
The government is battling to control ballooning foreign currency dealings that have seen the rise of cash barons exchanging mainly United States dollars at premiums outside those set by government.
The new regulations would be in effect for six months and require Parliament’s approval to become permanent.