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Arrested bank tellers in forex fraud case accuse managers

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Nedbank on phone screen

Twenty-eight bank tellers who were arrested in Zimbabwe over claims that they were involved in a US$1.1m fraud case have claimed that managers at the firm are also partly responsible for the problems.

The tellers say that leading managers at Nedbank Zimbabwe were involved in the alleged crimes, and that they, in some cases, ignored incidents of alleged forex fraud.

It is also alleged that the bank’s management also took part in some of the illicit currency transactions themselves.

The scandal involving Nedbank suggests that employees at the company took US dollars which customers had placed in their bank accounts and converted them into a form of electronic money known as RTGS.

Court documents released at the time suggested that the loss of US$1,119,974 occurred as a result of the switching.

“During the period extending from 15 October 2018 to 9 March 2019, the accused used (the) Denomination Exchange Platform in the Flexicube core banking system (under teller module), which is designed for exchange of similar currencies only”, the document read.

“…that is to say, they put in bond cash inflows and took out USD cash, thereby prejudicing the bank of foreign currency and as a result of the accused’s actions, the complainant suffered an actual prejudice of US$1 119 974 and nothing was recovered”, the document added.

Over the weekend, tellers working in a diverse range of the bank’s locations – including cities like Harare and Bulawayo – were taken into custody.

However, the media outlet Pindula claims that transcriptions of a leaked audio file gave details of the accusations made by the tellers against their bosses.

“Whenever the executives, especially at those branches which they were frequenting, whether they were withdrawing from their RTGS account or from their Nostro, they’d always maintain or demand to withdraw that in USD”, the claims read.

The tellers also appear to suggest that the executives were looking to pin the blame for the problem on the junior members of staff, even though they themselves were allegedly involved.

“So we don’t know what triggered this but our suspicion is that it started there on top because we started to hear these stories sometime back. We never knew that it was going to be thrown wholesomely on us and probably we are the easiest target for them to just pounce on”, the leaked audio continues.

Zimbabwe often suffers from problems with foreign exchange fraud due to a range of economic factors.

In October of last year, for example, police took around 200 dealers of foreign currency into custody following suggestions that they had broken the law.

The country also has a history of problems when it comes to currencies. In the latter half of the last decade, it suffered from extreme hyperinflation – leading to many in the country becoming wary of the currency.

As a result, the US dollar has become a desirable currency on the ground in the country – creating a demand for illicit transactions, and the potential for fraud as well.