$150K Cyanide Transaction Under International Scrutiny

Cross-Border Investigation Delays Justice in Major Fraud Case

by Adenike Adeodun

The case against Chinese national Li Song, charged with defrauding a local company out of US$150,000 in a flawed cyanide import transaction, has encountered delays due to the necessity for cross-border investigations. The court was informed that the delay stemmed from the need for local law enforcement and Interpol to secure resources to conduct further inquiries in Mauritius.

Li Song is accused of orchestrating a deceitful scheme in August 2021, aimed at embezzling funds from Strengthened Investments Private Limited, a company with an Italian national, Francesco Marconati, as its majority shareholder. The alleged fraud involved the generation of a proforma invoice (number ZIMBP2119, dated August 20, 2021), claiming to be from Curechem Holdings Limited, a company registered in Zimbabwe but operating from Mauritius. The invoice detailed a request for the purchase of 60 tonnes of hydrate lime for US$13,800 and 60 tonnes of sodium cyanide for US$144,000 on behalf of Strengthened Investments Private Limited.

According to prosecutors, Li then deceitfully obtained foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) by leveraging the fraudulent invoice. On September 6, 2021, he facilitated a transfer of ZWL$6,538,625.33 from the company’s local currency account at Ecobank Zimbabwe, applying for foreign exchange through the RBZ’s auction system. Consequently, on March 28, 2022, Marconati’s foreign currency account received US$157,275.15, sourced from the RBZ based on Li’s application.

Following the receipt of the funds, Li Song executed two significant transactions to Curechem Holdings Limited’s Mauritian bank account: US$78,266.06 on April 12, 2022, and US$77,461.65 on the subsequent day. The dubious nature of these transactions came to light when Curechem Overseas Private Limited, the Zimbabwean agent for the Mauritian-based Curechem Holdings Limited, detected the receipt of funds intended for Strengthened Investments Private Limited. The agent sought to clarify the purpose of the funds, having had no prior communications with the complainant regarding such transactions.

Upon notification from Curechem Overseas Private Limited, Marconati disavowed the transactions and promptly reported the issue to the police. Investigations spearheaded by Ecobank Zimbabwe, Curechem Overseas Private Limited, and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority unveiled that Li Song had fabricated the proforma invoice to illicitly acquire foreign currency from the RBZ and to finance the chemical purchase abroad, all without Marconati’s consent.

As the investigation progressed, Marconati advised Curechem Holdings Limited in Mauritius to freeze the funds pending a thorough inquiry. As a result, the funds remain held in Mauritius, awaiting the conclusion of the legal and investigative processes.

This case underscores the intricate challenges associated with cross-border financial crimes, including the complexities of conducting extraterritorial investigations and the coordination required among different jurisdictions to address such offences. The delays in the trial proceedings underscore the logistical and procedural hurdles that often accompany international cooperation in criminal investigations, reflecting on the broader implications for global financial security and the enforcement of justice across borders.

The accusation posits that Li Song’s actions inflicted significant financial harm on Marconati, translating to a direct loss of ZWL$6,538,625.33, equivalent to US$155,727.71. As the case awaits further action, pending the outcome of the additional investigations in Mauritius, it serves as a stark reminder of the vigilance needed to combat financial fraud and protect the interests of legitimate business dealings in an increasingly globalized economy.


Source: Newsday

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