Zimbabwean car dealers could be the biggest holders of U. S Dollars in hard cash as most, let alone all of them do not bank their money or conduct transactions through banks and formal systems.
The car industry is among the best performing sectors in the country, with both corporate and individual dealers getting a sizeable slice of the financial cake. The individual dealers who specialize in selling used cars, popularly known as Ex Japanese vehicles are on the majority side as they sell affordable cars to a large number of people.
Investigations conducted by the reporter over the weekend revealed that all transactions done by Car Dealers are carried out on cash bases. A client visits a car dealer holding thousands of hard cash and purchase the vehicle of his/her choice.
By the end of the day, an individual car dealer goes home with thousands of cash depending on the number of cars that would have been sold.
But where are they storing all that money? The reporter conducted a casual interview with one of the car dealers (name withheld) who had made US$20 000 after selling two vehicles to find out where he stored the money.
“I usually store it at my house until I make profits up to a certain figure. I then take it to my savings account in South Africa for safe keeping,” he said. When asked why he doesn’t keep it in the country, the dealer said he does not have faith in the local banking sector.
“You see, the challenge is things change daily in Zimbabwe so I do not have confidence in keeping my money there. I also do not trust to transact using formal channels because it complicates the buying and selling process, “
Another dealer said he keeps his money in a safe at home. “I have a safe where I keep all the money I make from this trade. Its better to keep my money where I can see it than to keep it in a bank where I may struggle to withdraw it,” he said.
Between 2009 and 2016, Zimbabweans spent as much as $4,5 billion on second-hand cars, an average of $566 million per year, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Office. The figures have tripled with the growing demand of cars to date. This means car dealers are making a killing.
However, all this money is not moving through formal channels resulting in the current problems where there is a liquidity crisis in the country in terms of U. S Dollars. If all the hard cash being made in this sector could be banked, U. S Dollars could be readily available in our banks.
Efforts to get a comment from the Financial Intelligent Unit Director where fruitless as his phone was not getting through by the time of publishing.
The car dealers run sophisticated money laundering schemes which been discovered by the FIU and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
Top Criminal Investigation Department officers offer these car dealers protection. They are given fuels and some family money. Investigations by this publication have found out that the car Mbingas are not paying duty for the high end cars we see in our streets.
The runners at the car sales along Robert Mugabe road in Eastlea use returning students and residence to avoid duty.
The corruption goes on with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials who are deeply involved. The car dealers have accounts in South Africa so that is money laundering without serious effort. Zimbabwe lose a billion every year to unscrupulous elements.
Zimbabwe is losing millions from unpaid tax and money externalization. Most of the SA registered number plates are cars bought via sophisticated money laundering and TIP renewal through agents at the border.
All cars like ZOZO’s GP are bought using money from Zimbabwe.
The government needs to act and change how the Financial Intelligent Unit reports or is structured. They need to report to a Joint operations command including the central intelligence, military, and police as well as the church body.
As it is , the structure is weak. And all other security agencies must be involved.
The trans frontier bank accounts are playing a bigger part. The local banking industry should also transform for them to attract deposits