FULL TEXT: How Nedbank Zimbabwe Management Was Involved In Forex Scam

On Friday 5 and Saturday 6 April, some 28 bank tellers employed by Nedbank Zimbabwe around the country were arrested and accused of defrauding the bank of some US $1.1 million. They appeared before magistrate courts around the country and were granted bail of $200.

On 8 April 2019, some of the tellers met apparently to discuss the case. Below is a transcription of some of what was said in that meeting (transcription from Audio recording by Pindula News)

We’re being accused of exchanging Bongs into USD dollars at 1:1. They are picking this from the time that the Monetary policy was announced with effect form the 16th of October 2018 and they are also alleging that up to 9 March 2019 when the currency was changed to the RTGS.

So you find that everyone who is affected in this manner is a teller who operated from the 16th of October to the 9th of March 2019. The reason being that we were using one till. The two currencies, the Bond and the USD were interchangeably being used because the one is to one rate was still maintained.

The bank did not effect anything on the system following the monetary policy which came into effect from the 16th of October 2018. So it was common practice bank-wide that the currencies were used as one currency just maybe separated in the real sense to say this is the Bond and this is the USD.

Of course they did open the Nostro accounts and FCA to maintain other balances as well. But you have got a system challenge that has actually implicated everyone who operated as a teller. I will just start on the few examples that will highlight why.

We had issues like DStv payments. The bank, sometime towards Christmas [2018], realised that we had stopped to avail this facility to our clients because there was a change in currency. So they then developed something and said to us ‘you can accept a deposit, u USD deposit, into an RTGS account and then use the card. In fact, anyone who paid for their DStv with Nedbank from the 16th of October to when we changed over to the base currency, that person was supposed to have an RTGS account. So the USD was input into the RTGS account. Of course against the compliance with the RBZ directive.

So at the end of the day, for that teller to balance, he had to switch the currency because the platform they were using was for RTGS accounts. That’s number 1.

Number 2: We have the issue of some organisations and companies. I can give you a very good example of Safeguard Security. They have guards that guard the US Embassy and these guys were getting part of their salaries as Bond and part as USD. So what would happen is that most of them didn’t even have Nostro accounts opened for them. The reason being that the bank had said we cannot open these Nostro accounts for everyone because they are expensive to maintain. so when these guys would visit the bank, the withdrawal would be done on the RTGS account but on actual paying them, you would be made to split the two. You would give them hard cash, as well as Bond using a schedule that was supplied to the bank.

So at the end of the day a teller who is operating, for him to balance the two currencies which are in fact operating in one till had to do in one way or another, a denomination exchange. Of which that is where our problem is emanating from.Or the allegations of having swindled the bank are emanating from.

I have touched on the key highlights.

Then the other issues that have also come up are we don’t know whether the bank had got the permission from the RBZ or not but we understand there were people who were bringing in deposits of which some of us here I understand had to overstay at their workplaces until 10PM counting those deposits. Bond deposits.

Of which some of us, me included, we were approached sometime in December by some of our management guys saying that we should engage some of the clients we know to bring in deposits. So that they deposit their money into the RTGS account, then foreign payments denominated in USD dollar would be done against those. Here we are talking about December. It is not even after the base currency. So this is what has been happening.

Then we also have the transactions from the executives. Yes, when the bank decided to open two accounts for us, one the normal one we already had the RTGS account, and then the Nostro FCA. But 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.

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.

So these transactions as I have explained, especially the foreign payment one, when they approached us, some of us especially myself, I actually refused and said this is not ethically correct for me to phone a client tell him that please bring deposits, ‘we know that you usually bring deposits, bring, we want to do something for you.’ Because that client remember, you’re not giving him any limitations of what he’s going to say and who he or she is going to talk to after that. Then how it’s going to be portrayed out there. ‘why don’t you convince their account relationship manager who manages their account at Wholesale Banking to bring these deposits. And those deposits they came and they were deposited into their accounts, and the foreign payments were processed against those.

So in essence what we’re dealing with and are faced with at the moment, is a system challenge which was open to abuse. But now, because they cannot now separate abuse from genuine transactions perhaps – we don’t know whether those ones they were saying we should do were authorised by relevant authorities, we’re not sure. There’s now no separation from those transactions that were also happening from the ones that perhaps others also did in violation of what they are now alleging. But what we’re most worried about is that wholesome putting everyone in one basket and saying this is it. And as it stands if you go to the system now, no one can then pick and say this was a genuine transaction and this was not a genuine transaction, when the system was not made to account for these things separately.

Then lastly, maybe I had omitted this, on the highlights of the transactions that were happening. We have also the POS device that we use at Nedbank. You know what it does? When you visit the bank and you have got your card, we swipe your card on the POS machine. It does not go straight to affect my denominations as they are. It’s throwing all these transactions into a separate suspense account. Then at the end of the day whoever was operating that POS machine would have to manually extract a batch from the POS machine then go and debit that to his or her own till. In other words, there’s always a mismatch when the teller is operating during the course of the day between the denominations that are being maintained on his or her till, and the ones that are being affected as the POS is being operated. Which ordinarily would require him or her to then do a balancing off of his denominations at the end of the day.

The bank has decided to just to turn back on all those issues and then embarrass us in the manner in which they embarrassed us, and try to oil the state machinery and state agencies. And this efficiency in providing transport and everything that is needed at every turn to make sure that we are arrested and displayed to everyone who cares to listen that we have swindled the bank USD $1.1 million. Yet they are looking for USD $5 million that up to now we are yet to know who took. Who took the balance because at least now they can tell us that the $1.1 million was taken by tellers.

And we want to know what kind of coordination we had as a team. Those that are in Gweru, Bulawayo, Harare. We all did that.

I can give you another example of a lady who is deployed by UN somewhere outside the country. She visited out branch sometime. She had this balance which was about $10,000 in her RTGS account. And she was saying, ‘the money which I was bringing all along was USD.’  And that was true because she’s being paid by UN. But because of this directive, she could now no longer claim USD from that account. So an application was supposed to be made and approved and then she begins to withdraw. But you know what happened? An email came. All the vouchers were being signed for by management. The same guys who are complaining against us right now, they appended their signatures on the vouchers of that lady. And she was withdrawing USD from an RTGS account. Because they were saying ‘let us reduce her balance until it is somewhere reasonable and then we can put in an application.’

[Another person in the meeting:]

Maybe to add weight to what you have just said, I have just listed some transactions dating back to September October which were done through Bond accounts but USDs were coming out. {some inaudible words…} I just listed the different withdrawals: Mastercard payments, DStv payments, POS transactions, Staff salaries, 100% staff withdrawals- You have noticed that as staff we had a privilege of being given 100% of my salary once off per year in USDs. If I applied for an overdraft, I was given USDs but it was coming from the Bond account – it was 1:1. Then we had customer withdrawals.

{other inaudible words}

In addition to that, I think my colleague will support me, staff withdrawals authorised by one of the executives. He’d just send an email:  ‘Pay’. And usually USD $800 to USD $1,000. We had no Nostro account. These were Bond accounts. That’s how we could facilitate withdrawals. There were also cash approvals, whereby all tobacco farmers would get USD. We were using Bond accounts for withdrawals. And we wonder now why fall heavy on us.


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