A YEAR ago in the Business Chronicle, I discussed the possibility of tracing all externalised funds back to Zimbabwe.
It sounded as fiction and a lot of criticism was generated by few individuals who needed some enlightenment on the modern actionable intelligent tools to achieve that. Individuals and companies that externalised funds unfortunately left free forensic actionable evidence to make it so easy for commercial crime investigators to find them. It is as easy as killing a fly using an insecticide.
It is time that culprits bring back these funds with all the accumulated interest. All profits accumulated from Zimbabwe, belong to Zimbabwe and should not be stashed in foreign bank accounts. The perpetrators did it under the umbrella of a political dark cloud that had befallen our beloved country, adding more pain to our already ailing economy. We applaud President Mnangagwa’s three-month amnesty to those who externalised funds to bring them back failure to which justice will take its course.
With the use of Open Source Financial Intelligence, it is not only easy to track these funds but as good as looking for hidden money in the palm of your hand. Those that will default the amnesty window period, thinking that the legal bottlenecks will delay prosecution are day dreaming.
As long as they laid hands on illegally externalised funds through different channels, unfortunately technology has long overtaken them. Government can easily track all the externalisation of funds and locate individuals and companies involved in a split of a second. Having worked intensively and trained in anti-money laundering and open source big data analytics, one wonders how foolish greedy people can be so drunk and carelessly commit such financial crimes thinking they would not be caught.
These crimes span across the mining companies, agricultural exports, tourism, wildlife poaching, banks, manufacturing, retail and government projects.
Diamond companies played ignorance and expertise in the international trading of diamonds whilst some companies were cutting deals behind doors to sell our diamonds for cheap whilst keeping the profits abroad.
Zimbabwe has one of the best minerals evaluators, which gives her added advantage to sell diamonds on the international open market. The engagement middlemen consultants resulted in billions of dollars being externalised. Fortunately we are now able to engage technology to reevaluate those diamond deals and bring back excess proceeds. Government must urgently spread the broom to all these areas by using big data analytics investigations and financial link analysis on all Zimbabwean projects and financial deals. Additionally there are several types of corrupt practices in Government projects where certain already known individuals were cutting deals and paying themselves commissions through carbon companies as consultancy fees. These should be warned and must quickly declare all those transactions as they are as transparent as glass.
Technology is available to help Government bring these hidden transactions to the surface. Yes, it is possible to recall not only hundreds of millions of dollars but billions of dollars stashed in external accounts in the form of cash and assets. As experts in these things we are back home to help Government swiftly identify all those illegal transactions and monitor compliance issues to those that think they will only declare a fraction of the externalised funds.
We want every cent repatriated back to Zimbabwe as long as those funds were generated from Zimbabwe. This exercise must even cover domestically undeclared wealth and acquisition of assets using stolen funds. Using the same technology, which is part of our expertise, Government will easily audit all these abnormalities in wealth accumulation.
I confirm that yes, it is possible to find our monies stashed in countries like China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Dubai, South Africa, England and any others that have normal functioning financial systems. If Government is willing to lay hands on those funds it is easier to get that money than asking for aid from the World Bank or IMF. Even if individuals have started to move such funds and changed ownership of assets, it’s a shame, because it’s too late. The financial blueprint trail is already registered. Actually by doing so, it will make it easy for the investigators to locate the new funds destination. All what Government needs to do, is set up a Security Financial Operation Centre to monitor compliance with the amnesty and population of all suspects who are already known through Open Source Intelligence.
Some people are already suggesting that three months is too short to repatriate funds. That’s not correct. It took these financial criminals 24 hours to externalise funds. Three months is more than enough. It is known where these funds are. IRS in USA takes a few seconds to freeze a defaulting account and take the funds away and why should it take us three months to do the same? Three months is too long and actually jeopardising the quick financial inflows to quickly resuscitate the economy.
Diamond mining companies refusing to avail information regarding the extracted diamonds are operating in the 14th century. Technology can actually forensically evaluate the amount of diamonds extracted in all the mined areas and their actual values, detect any illegal under pricing of the same diamonds and the ballooning of the extraction costs. We are able to know the actual value of all diamonds that were mined in Zimbabwe and the countries where these diamonds were sold and who actually benefitted from the proceeds. It is now up to Government to agree to have access to such information and act upon it.
All coal exports and by products, which were illegally externalised, we need them back. All hidden exports documents and financial transactions are as easy as opening a can of jam to find the information. All illegal gold exports can easily be evaluated with a click of a button. Zimbabwe has billions of dollars in foreign accounts, which needs to be in our banks to stop all these long queues. Our fingers are itching to help Government quickly bring back our stolen monies. Our technology at hand is equal and the same platform with the technology that revealed the Panama files. That is how modern international expertise in the Government financial crime expertise is and that is available in Zimbabwe. All financial criminal elements have no place to hide. I encourage all those responsible for the illegal wealth in their pockets to take heed of the amnesty and declare honestly because there is no place to hide as long as you are on planet earth. The only safest place is maybe migrating to Mars.
Locally, all unexplained wealth, under declared personal and capital goods are forensic evidence for Zimra to double their collection. Personal life audits of unexplained wealth from Zimra officials is one of the exercises that Government should immediately embark on as it will unlock billions of dollars of un declared taxes. All this is free meta-data readily available in the recovery of fraudulently stolen funds in tax evasion. Those funds will be more than enough to kick start our economy without outside help. All what Zimbabwe needs in the interim is funding the collection and compliance phase, which will yield few millions to achieve the collection of hundreds of billions in outstanding compliance payment returns.
Chris Ndlovu is an IT expert specialising in big data investigation analytics in financial crimes