Ecobank staffers fingered in massive externalisation scam

Business Reporter

Employees at Ecobank’s Borrowdale branch in Harare allegedly facilitated the illegal transfer of large sums of money by controversial Chinese businesswoman Li Song to her offshore accounts,NewsDay has heard.

The Chinese national allegedly exploited loopholes in the RBZ’s US dollar auction system where she accessed large sums of money and illegally transferred it to her offshore accounts without the knowledge of her co-directors at Marondera-based Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather company.

Li, who is being sought by the police for theft of trust property , faces another charge of illegally transferring millions of into her Mauritius-based company, Jacaranda Consulting Services’ bank account.

According to documents shown to NewsDay, Li misrepresented to RBZ that Jacaranda Consulting Services was a supplier of raw materials to Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather which supplies leather products to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, prison services and the military.

Due to the misrepresentation, the RBZ transferred the money allotted to Li to her Mauritian firm where she is the sole shareholder.

According to sources, some Ecobank employees corruptly prepared documents with inflated figures to bid for forex at the RBZ after being given fake receipts of supplier of raw materials. The RBZ would then transfer the money to Jacaranda Consulting Services’ bank account.

Li would then withdraw some money and buy cheaper raw materials at different places in South Africa, China among others. Ecobank’s alleged involvement was exposed when Li’s ex-husband and business partner Francesco Marconati sued the bank for loss of business amounting to US$7, 152, 206.

Marconati is accusing the bank of conniving with Li to transfer the money to Jacaranda Consulting Services. Other directors at Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather smelt a rat after realizing that all their company supplies were being done by Li’s firm. These included machine parts, cleaning accessories and chemicals.

Following the expose’ Li was forced to resign as co- director of Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather to allow for investigations into her alleged financial impropriety.

ln his lawsuit against EcoBank, Marconati said, “I believe with serious conviction that Song designed this scheme by taking advantage of her position as well as after realizing the loopholes in the RBZ auction system which is usually characterized by low RTGS to USD auction rates. “So at the end Song would externalise huge amounts of USD after bidding the same at low auction rates using facilitates provided by EcoBank Zimbabwe.”

He added that Li transferred a total of US$708 000 to Jacaranda Consulting Services between June and September 2021.

Last week police waylaid Li as she attended a different court case, but failed to arrest her although they were armed with a warrant of arrest.

She is believed to be well-connected in police and political circles.

  • AMH

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