HARARE – The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has moved to spearhead the resuscitation of an Economic Crimes Court as the local economy continues to be prejudiced of billions of dollars through white-collar crime.
In the recent past efforts by the RBZ to combat economic crimes such as the externalisation of foreign currency or financial sector corruption seem to be coming to nil.
In the financial sector, for example, several banks have closed as their owners have mismanaged depositors’ funds, yet not major convictions have been made.
But while presenting the January Monetary Policy Statement today RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya said the policy proposal is rather based on a broader need to plug leakages in the wider economy.
At a symposium last month, the governor lamented limited financial wherewithal that was being accrued from the local resources sector, especially diamonds.
“There is urgent and compelling need for Government to resuscitate an Economic Crimes Court in order to ensure that the “plugging the leakages approach” advocated in this Monetary Policy Statement is legally supported,” said Dr Mangudya today.
“The investigation and prosecution of crimes involving strategic minerals like gold and diamonds, for example, necessitates the seizure by the state of the recovered minerals which are then kept as exhibits to be used in the trial.
“The current congestion in the criminal resolution system, results in protracted processes before finalisation of economic crime cases. During this process the country lacks access to the resources which could be generated from the liquidation of the looted products or exhibits.”
The RBZ governor lamented the present cumbersome processes in dealing with resources crimes.
“The problem is further compounded by the fact that both the Precious Stones Trade Act [Chapter ] and the Gold Trade Act [Chapter ] provide for elaborate procedures to be followed upon the conviction of a felon before the precious stones are forfeited to the State.
“The minerals concerned have to be delivered to the Secretary for Mines who has to publicise their existence by way of publication in the Gazette. The Secretary has to wait for any claims to the minerals for two months. If a credible claim is received, then the minerals are surrendered to the claimant. If there is a disputed claim, the matter is referred to the High Court after twenty one days,” he said.
“What this calls for therefore, is the institution of a mechanism which expedites the disposal of economic crimes involving minerals so that the exhibits are quickly put at the disposal of the State.
“As was the case when Economic Crimes Court were first introduced in 2003, the specialised Economic Crimes Court would be administratively set up using existing legislation.
“They would be introduced using the existing court structure, that is, as a division within the Regional Magistrates Courts and as a Division within the High Court.”
Other countries in sub-Saharan African have such-like legislations. For instance in 1999, neighbours South Africa set up the specialised Commercial Crime Court, and Nigeria established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2002 to curb white-collar crime.