Spot­light on money laun­der­ing

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

THE Cen­tral Bank of Le­sotho (CBL) has launched a cam­paign aimed at curb­ing money laun­der­ing in con­junc­tion with mo­bile money ser­vices providers and the po­lice.

Un­der the cam­paign, which was launched in Maseru on Mon­day, the CBL will hold joint aware­ness events in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Econet Tele­com Le­sotho (ETL) and Vo­da­com Le­sotho (VCL) with the in­put of the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS).

The two-week cam­paign will be held in all the country’s dis­tricts and start-off next week in Tey­ateya­neng. Money laun­der­ing is the generic term used to de­scribe the process by which crim­i­nals dis­guise the orig­i­nal own­er­ship and con­trol of the pro­ceeds of crim­i­nal con­duct by send­ing it through a le­git­i­mate or­gan­i­sa­tions like banks and mo­bile money ser­vices.

In her re­marks, CBL Act­ing Head of Na­tional Pay­ment Sys­tems, Mankana Tha­bane, said the cam­paign was meant to raise aware­ness on the ris­ing cases of money laun­der­ing with re­gards to mo­bile money trans­ac­tions.

“Among oth­ers, the man­date of the CBL is to en­sure that pay­ment sys­tems and any re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties are safe and ef­fi­cient for sub­scribers,” said Ms Tha­bane.

“It has, there­fore, come to our at­ten­tion that mo­bile pay­ment sys­tems such as ETL’S Eco-cash and VCL’S M-pesa (VCL) are be­ing used in­ap­pro­pri­ately by some peo­ple.”

She said the col­lab­o­ra­tion was meant to en­sure money laun­der­ing did not dam­age rep­u­ta­tions and the nor­mal oper­a­tions of fi­nan­cial and mo­bile money ser­vices providers.

“We de­cided to come to­gether and see how best we can nip cases of money laun­der­ing in the bud be­cause we want con­sumers to re­main con­fi­dent in mak­ing mo­bile trans­ac­tions,” Ms Tha­bane said.

“We don’t want to see the im­age of mo­bile pay­ment sys­tems be­ing tar­nished by such il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.”

She said the apex bank was also con­cerned by the pro­lif­er­a­tion of coun­ter­feit notes which the cam­paign was also meant to ed­u­cate Ba­sotho on.

VCL Ex­ec­u­tive Head of M-pesa Palesa Mphun­yet­sane echoed the sen­ti­ments, say­ing the pub­lic should re­main vig­i­lant to pre­vent money laun­der­ing.

“We have ob­served that a num­ber of peo­ple have re­ceived coun­ter­feit money through our agents, and we ap­peal to the pub­lic to be very vig­i­lant when they re­ceive cash,” she said.

“It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one to en­sure that we safe­guard our hard-earned money.”

Ms Mphun­yet­sane also dis­tanced VCL from pyra­mid schemes mush­room­ing in the country.

“We would like to em­pha­size that Vo­da­com is not as­so­ci­ated with any of the pyra­mid schemes that are in the mar­ket. We have ob­served that some pyra­mid schemes use our logo on their web­sites which is very wrong be­cause we have no as­so­ci­a­tion with them what­so­ever,” she said.

On his part, ETL Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Leon de Fleu­riot de la Colin­iere, said the cam­paign was meant to urge Ba­sotho to steer clear of pyra­mid schemes.

“We are aware that pyra­mid schemes are us­ing var­i­ous plat­forms in their oper­a­tions in­clud­ing mo­bile money ser­vices,” he said.

“We don’t sup­port pyra­mid schemes and do our ut­most to dis­as­so­ci­ate our­selves from them. I think the state­ment ‘If it’s too good to be true, then it prob­a­bly is’ should ap­ply to any of th­ese get-rich-quick schemes. “It should be com­mu­ni­cated to our sub­scribers that quick gains are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by a lot of suf­fer­ing at the end of the day.”

Mr de la Colin­iere said they had an obli­ga­tion to con­sci­en­tise their cus­tomers about money laun­der­ing and pro­tect them from crim­i­nals.

“As mo­bile money op­er­a­tors, it our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that only clean and le­git­i­mate money goes through our sys­tems,” he said.

“For in­stance, we in­tro­duced trans­ac­tion lim­its to curb money laun­der­ing. Our agents also help us by re­port­ing sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties so that we can promptly re­spond and nip such ac­tiv­i­ties in the bud.

“Over the course of this cam­paign, we will en­sure that the se­cu­rity fea­tures on dif­fer­ent types of cur­ren­cies are com­mu­ni­cated ef­fec­tively to Ba­sotho and those peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas.”

On be­half of LMPS, Se­nior In­spec­tor– Crime In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vices Oper­a­tions Bothata ‘Nei called for more con­certed ef­forts to stop money laun­der­ers in their tracks.

“We have en­coun­tered many prob­lems with the erup­tion of pyra­mid schemes which are of­ten fa­cil­i­tated by monies trans­ferred through mo­bile ser­vices,” he said.

“For in­stance, when one wishes to de­posit money into a bank ac­count, they are of­ten asked where they got the money from. But with mo­bile money ser­vices, none of those ques­tions are asked.

“So, at the end of the day, we find that most of the monies that would oth­er­wise have been un­law­fully ob­tained find their way into the fi­nan­cial sec­tor.”

Sen Insp ‘Nei said the ease of get­ting sim cards was play­ing into the hands of money laun­der­ers.

“It is easy to ob­tain and reg­is­ter as many as 50 sim cards and con­tinue to use those to trans­act money daily,” he said.

“With such a loop­hole, a money laun­derer can eas­ily trans­act over M50 000 within a short pe­riod of time us­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent sim cards. “Th­ese are only a few ex­am­ples but there are many av­enues which should be ex­plored to curb money laun­der­ing.”

ETL CEO Leon de Fleu­riot de la Colin­iere.

VCL Ex­ec­u­tive Head of M-pesa Palesa Mphun­yet­sane.

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