Zimbabwe Central Bank has issued a warning to all banks to tighten security surrounding cash after a series of high profile robberies. They have mainly targeted the United States Dollar, the British Pound and the South African Rand.
The currencies were introduced into Zimbabwe to deal with the economic
meltdown after hyperinflation almost brought the Southern African country’s economy to a screeching halt.
The robberies have also been carried by criminal syndicates operating
in Zimbabwe and South Africa. And central bank memo, dated June 24, urged banks to increase their safety measures because of “heightened security risk in banking institutions”, especially during the World Cup.
They are also being told to deal with threat posed by internal factors like the help provided by the staff in aiding these robberies. In May four central bank workers stole US$400 000 from the bank’s vault and split the money. The theft was only discovered after a month.
It is believed that most of the robbers loot these banks and then cross the border and go to South Africa where they can spend the cash without fear of being apprehended.
“The use of foreign currencies has heightened security risk in banking institutions. Since the adoption of the multi-currency system, there has been an increase in the number of armed robberies and fraud at local banks,” the central bank says in the memo.
“Banking institutions’ exposure to security risk emanates from internal and external sources, which include connivance of staff, fraudulent activities and armed robberies.”
It also says that banks must be wary, because the foreign currencies in circulation provide a boon for robbers who now attack brazenly, grab the money and skip over the border to spend the cash in their safe havens in South Africa.
“Banking institutions are directed to develop adequate physical security control measures that are commensurate with the risk profile and scope of business,” the memo reads.
Zimbabwe has 15 commercial banks, five merchant banks, four building
societies and one savings bank. There are 16 asset management companies and 95 micro-finance institutions.
The country has had several bank heists involving locals and South Africans in recent months. Just before the World Cup kick-off armed robbers struck at a ZB Bank and made off with US$116 000 and R14 000.
In January a six-man gang, including three South Africans, hit Stanbic
Bank’s Chegutu branch and stole US$266000, R150000 and 34 690 Botswana
pula. A Kingdom Bank branch in Harare was also hit by robbers, who got away with more than US$120 000, R48930, £155 and 1800 pula.