Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has launched an operation against dealing in foreign exchange, especially the United States dollar, whose sharp rise has been blamed for the hike in prices of basic commodities.
The operation is the second major action by the Office of the President this year following Operation Bulldozer in May to “clean the nation of criminals”.
A media release on Monday said it had come to the notice of the Office of the President that speculators and some unscrupulous businesses were creating an artificial shortage of foreign exchange, especially of the United States dollar.
This had caused the unprecedented appreciation of the dollar against the Gambian dalasi with the sole intention of hiking prices of basic commodities and causing hardship to the people.
The release warned that “this criminal trend is unacceptable and unjustifiable”.
The US dollar has been trading at about 35 delasis, up from 28 delasis a few months ago.
“Those involved in foreign exchange transactions, including the Bureaux de Change or Foreign exchange Bureaus, banks and Mobile Telephone Operators, are hereby warned that very drastic action will be taken against any individual, or body corporate found culpable of hoarding of and speculating in foreign exchange,” the release said.
“This office reserves the right to close any business, Bureau de Change, Bank or any company that is bent on sabotaging the economy of the Gambia without any further notice. Anybody found with foreign currency like CFA and is not registered to deal in such will face the full force of the law in addition to forfeiting such to the state.”
The release announced that a moratorium had been imposed with immediate effect on all shipping of US dollar out of the country with possible exemption for essential importation, which must obtain prior clearance from the Office of the President.
It said a team of enforcement agents had been directed to investigate, monitor all foreign exchange bureaux and unregistered agents, as well as any other institution, and are authorized to confiscate any US dollar currency going out of the country without prior approval.
The enforcement agents have the full authority to investigate, seize as well as prosecute those found to be hoarding any foreign currency, especially the US dollar.
The release noted that all commercial banks had facilities for the opening of foreign currency accounts and there would be no excuse for any institution, individual or group to have large cash amounts of any foreign exchange.