Local company defrauds Econet Wireless of US$77 000 (27-07-07)

A LOCAL software company is alleged to have defrauded Econet Wireless of US$77 000 in June by tampering with incoming international calls to make them appear as local calls to local subscribers.
Easi-E-Connect directors Herbert Rinashe and Irfaan Valera have since appeared at the Harare Magist

rates’ Court facing fraud charges.
Under normal circumstances, Econet’s international incoming calls are routed through the mobile firm’s recognised international partners. This allows Econet to monitor the origin of the incoming international calls on which the applicable termination fees are charged in foreign currency.
“This caused prejudice of US$77 000 to Econet in unlawful converted international incoming calls terminated minutes for the month of June 2007 alone . . . and nothing yet has been recovered,” a Harare Magistrates’ Court document read.
Rinashe and Valera are alleged to have sub-contracted 30 Econet contract lines from a company called GSN Rent-a-Fonie owed by a Wallbridge on the understanding that they would be put to local use.
They then obtained a SIM Box or a GSM gateway, which converts international coded data received through the Internet to a normal voice call.
The two directors proceeded to place the 30 lines in the SIM box to facilitate the conversion of incoming calls which would then be received as local voice calls by the end receiver, with the calling number reflecting private.
Two weeks ago, Econet installed anti-fraud software to track down fraudsters who have been prejudicing the mobile telecommunication operator of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
These included those who have been diverting international calls that reached Zimbabwe and manipulated them to appear as local calls, a practice known as refilling.
But Econet is not the only company affected by such fraudlent activities. Both NetOne and Telecel have in the past reported losing unspecified amounts of foreign currency to white-collar criminals.
LISTED group and Zimbabwe’s largest clothing retailer, Edgars Stores Ltd, is tightening credit purchases as it seeks to hedge itself against inflation, which stood at 4 530% as at May 30.
Edgars now insists on a 505 down payment on all credit purchases. In other words, consumers would have to buy on hire purchase.
“This is purely a strategic decision meant to cut down costs,” said a manager who cannot be named.
“The costs of funding credit purchases had become unsustainably high due to the current inflationary environment.
“It only makes sense for the group to incline most of its sales to cash,” the company said in a statement.
The new requirement is effective this month and supersedes the 25% advance payment on credit purchases which came into force in June.
Previously, buyers could acquire goods on zero-deposit before paying monthly instalments spread over six months.
This, perhaps, may be confirmation the group is moving towards cash sales as opposed to credit purchases.
Edgars has introduced the Express Mart range of stores, which sell strictly on cash to the low and medium-income earners.
In the last 12 months alone, the group has opened no less than four Express Mart shops in Harare, Kwekwe and Masvingo.
Clothing retailers are beginning to feel the pinch of the erosive effects of the current hyperinflationary environment, with recent figures showing disturbing downward trends in sales volumes.
In a trading update released recently, Edgars Stores chairman Themba Sibanda put his finger on the pulse when he said: “During the first quarter of 2007, the value of the Zimbabwe dollar fell precipitously on the unofficial market.
“This depreciation was particularly severe during the month of March.
“Debtors collectors remained strong throughout the period. Bad debts write-offs and the debtors’ arrears percentage remained within acceptable norms.
“However, given the massive increase in prices that occurred during March and April, cash sales have fallen dramatically.”



Post published in: Economy

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