Oddly Enough

Man arrested for using bank notes as business cards

An unidentified Zimbabwean man piles up the black market equivalent of 50 pounds (approximately 5 million Zimbabwe dollars) August 18, 2003. REUTERS/Howard Burditt

HARARE (Reuters) - A professional hunter has been arrested on suspicion he turned Zimbabwean bank notes into business cards and handed them out at a tourism fair.

Zimbabwe is struggling with the world’s highest inflation rate of about 8,000 percent because of an economic crisis and it is hard to buy anything with its smaller denomination “bearer cheque” bank notes.

Harare police said on Thursday they had arrested Denis Paul, a 41-year-old professional hunter and lodge owner from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, on charges of defacing bank notes. He faces a fine or up to a year in prison.

Paul was not immediately available for comment.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted him as saying he stamped his business details on 100 10-cent bearer cheques for distribution at the World Tourism Market fair in London last month because he had left without his usual business cards.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) alleges he distributed more than 10,000 stamped notes, the Herald said.

“The ZTA alleges that Paul had discouraged foreign tour operators from coming to Zimbabwe while claiming that the country’s currency was so useless that it was only fit to be used as business cards,” it said.

Paul told the daily he had gone to London to promote his tourism business and used bearer cheques he believed to have expired. “It was not my intention to demonise the country and I gave them (the cards) only to people I knew,” he said.

President Robert Mugabe’s government lopped off three zeroes from the local currency in July 2006 in its fight against inflation. Zimbabweans still find themselves having to carry huge wads of cash for basic transactions.

Reporting by Cris Chinaka; Editing by Robert Woodward