Visa card scam hits Immigration Department

There was a bloodbath at the Immigration department which saw a large number of accounts department employees being fired after the unearthing of a well-orchestrated Visa card scam at inland and border posts, prejudicing government of thousands of United States dollars in the process, Zim Morning Post can reveal.

Zim Morning Post has it on good record that the employees in question capitalised on the introduction of the Interbank rate.

Under the arrangement, the local currency was no longer recognised as equivalent to the US dollar yet immigration officers kept on remitting RTGS dollars using the one 1:1 rate.

Sources who spoke to this publication revealed that officials at Bulawayo Airport, Bulawayo immigration offices and Robert Mugabe Airport have been fired as a result.

Before the interbank rate was effected, officials and inlands and border posts officials used to get hard cash from foreign visitors who were paying their visa fees and in turn they would pocket the cash and use their bank cards to swipe into the department’s RTGS account,” said the source who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.

“There were no problems at that time because the RTGS dollar was equivalent to the US dollar, the issue arose when the interbank rate was introduced. The officials kept on receiving hard US dollars and remitting the same amount in RTGS  via electronic transfer even though the rate was no longer the same.

“In October last year, an FCA account (Account number 06623363320179) held at the CBZ, was created and put in motion with the knowledge of station heads only and the officials on the ground were not aware of the changes hence they continued to swipe on behalf of clients and the money went straight into the old account (06623363320080) prompting management to check with the bank and see if there were anomalies with the new account.”

Reports are to the effect that top management officials went to CBZ hoping to learn of and correct the technical error which was stopping foreign payments from reflecting in their new FCA account only to discover that payments were being made into the old RTGS account.

After the bank visit, the payments in the old account were checked and it was discovered that they had been made by employees ranging from the lowest officers to directors and the highest amount that had been remitted was RTGS$64 000 instead of US$64 000 in a single day.

Interestingly, disciplinary action was only taken on the accountants and the cashiers and officers at the receiving points were spared in a move that has been deemed as selective application of the law.

This publication has it on good authority that on one of the stations that was busted, only one accountant survived on basis that he had assumed duty for just a week before the expose of the scam.

However, there are reports of corruption and nepotism surrounding the scandal as other top officials who are believed to have been benefitting from the scam are trying to drop the charges.

Insiders say investigations could not establish who made the transactions till officials and the accountants.

We have a huge problem with our Point of sale machines which have no user Ids so any officer can just swipe and this makes it diffucult to establish who swiped what amount,” said an insider.

Investigations also revealed that at some ports of entry officers charged a visitors the same fee yet visa fees are different from country to country.

“Canadians pay US$70 while visitors from the USA pay $30. So officers would manually quote all visitors as tourists from USA (who pay US$30) and pocket the difference.”

Efforts to contact the Immigration Department authorities proved fruitless at the time of writing.