via RBZ forex theft case postponed until new year | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo December 4, 2013
The High Court has again postponed hearing the matter in which a charity is challenging the theft of half a million dollars from its account by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The case was being heard by Justice Felistus Chatukuta, who deferred the hearing to 22nd January 2014, to accommodate the festive break.
The funds were taken from the Zimbabwe AIDS Network’s Standard Chartered Bank account in 2008 following an order by outgoing RBZ governor Gideon Gono, directing banks to surrender all foreign currency accounts to the central bank.
This ‘centralisation’ gave Gono access to more than $1 billion belonging to charities and corporates and was used to prop up an economy that was finally buckling under one of the world’s highest inflation rates, relentless looting and mismanagement by ZANU PF.
Several charities, including the Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN) lost large sums of donor funds meant for humanitarian projects.
ZAN lost US$500,000 and challenged the seizure of its funds, accusing both the RBZ and StanChart of acting illegally.
Last month a judge postponed the case to give the RBZ and StanChart time to conduct talks, after both banks tried to shirk responsibility to return the funds. StanChart argued that it had acted on a directive from the RBZ, while the central bank in turn tried to seek immunity from prosecution over the issue.
Also last month, a Chinese-owned firm in Kwekwe, China Shougang International, won its case against StanChart, after its funds were seized under similar circumstances.
Stanchart had denied responsibility and urged the Chinese firm to approach the RBZ for their money. But the Supreme Court disagreed and ordered StanChart to pay the firm almost $50,000.
On Monday lawyer Belinda Chinowawa told SW Radio Africa that this is a judicial precedent that the two banking institutions should consider when negotiating a deal with the AIDS charity.
In June, the High Court also ordered the RBZ to return over $1 million to the Trojan Nickel Mine firm, whose funds were seized from its BancABC account. The RBZ is appealing the High Court decision, seeking to shift liability to BancABC.
Earlier this week, the state-owned media revealed that Cabinet had approved the takeover of the $1.35 billion RBZ debt by the State to enable the central bank to, among other things, repay “foreign currency account balances taken over during hyperinflation”.
Observers, including economist Vince Musewe, have criticised the move, saying this will shift the burden to poor Zimbabweans when the real beneficiaries of Gono’s reckless monetary policies were ZANU PF.
In his farewell speech Saturday Gono said he was leaving the central bank “a happy man”. He said he had successfully fulfilled President Mugabe’s mandate “to defend the country’s sovereignty and economic interests”.