ECONOMIST Trevor Hambayi says government should consider giving an amnesty to those who stole, arguing that changing the currency to smoke them out can be an expensive venture and should therefore be a last resort.

In an interview, Hambayi said investigative wings should be allowed to investigate any money laundering suspicions.

“There are two sides to this. Normally when you change the currency, there are a number of factors that are considered by the Central Bank. Usually, it is where you think that your currency requires enhanced security measures or unless the Central Bank knows the volume of funds that are outside that have not come back into the banking system, but it is too large to be able to manage in terms of increasing liquidity so that they will be able to do this. But from an economic perspective, it is a consideration they can have depending on what they want to achieve. It will be positive because then it will help you to try and bring in, if you think other systems cannot flush out the people,” Hambayi said.

“But generally speaking, if the security agencies or law enforcement agencies are working, they should be able to trace all these people. Then reel them in terms of where the resources are that they withdraw or they are trying to transfer without having to put the entire country to an expensive process of having to change a currency. Unless you find that, this is your last resort. I basically consider that there should be other ways as regards to this. You can consider especially if you are having to deal with potential people who have taken money illegally that you can provide an amnesty for everybody to bring back the money in a specified period. After that period then everybody is prosecuted for money laundering. This can also be a basis to immediately try and bring back those resources into the banking sector.”

And commenting on the Bank of Zambia’s statement that there was an unprecedented rise in the demand for cash countrywide during the past few months which had led to the shortage of banknotes and coins, Hambayi said institutions in charge of ensuring that individuals do not exceed their limit for withdrawals should be charged for floating the financial regulations.

“The first thing I see from that pronouncement is that I really want to question where the oversight processes in this country are. Before that, it is a known regulation that there was always a limit in terms of how much cash you actually pay or withdraw. I think it was K25,000 in cash, after that you required special permission to be able to withdraw any additional amounts,” said Hambayi.

“So, the financial institutions were also complacent in having to support these illegal activities. If they allowed people to go into the banks and draw these huge sums of money without consideration, they must also be charged with floating the financial regulations in the country. It is also very easy to find out who withdrew these funds, what these funds were meant for and they should be able to provide that information and accountability of the funds that they withdrew.”