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Rwanda: Police Warn on Illegal Money Exchange

Rwanda National Police (RNP) has urged the public to refrain from exchange of currencies with unauthorized individuals/dealers.

The call follows the arrest of three illegal money changers in Bugarama Sector, buy Rusizi District on June 30.

According to the police spokesperson, troche Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), check Celestin Twahirwa, “cases of illegal money changers are very minimal but even the few ones must stop.”

Police and the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) have since developed a partnership in fighting illegal money changing.

Officials say the partnership is geared towards protecting the economy against any adverse effects that may arise from the illegal trade  done by the black markets operators.

The suspects arrested in Rusizi were identified as Theobald Nsengiyumva, Vincent Nshutikuneza and Jean Sango and are currently held at Bugarama Police station.

“Legal and regulatory frameworks have been put in place to regulate the foreign exchange markets. These regulatory frameworks include the penal code, the central bank law and the regulation governing foreign exchange bureaus,’ said Twahirwa.

“These are clear legal instruments that must be observed. People who have interest in this business should organize themselves and acquire a license from the National Bank of Rwanda and the Rwanda Forex Bureau Association (RFBA) rather that operating on a black market which is criminal,” he added.


Currently, there are 88 licensed Forex bureaus, with about 55 percent of them operating in the City of Kigali.

ACP Twahirwa went on to say that the 2013 regulations governing foreign exchange bureaus stipulates in article 3 that no person shall carry out or purport to carry out a foreign exchange bureau in Rwanda unless he or she is licensed by the Central Bank in accordance with this regulation.


Article 4 of the same instrument indicates that a company or a cooperative intending to apply for a license to operate a foreign exchange bureau shall have a paid up capital not less than Rwf20 million or its equivalent in another currency before commencement of operations which should be maintained at all times.


In reference to the arrested suspects, ACP Twahirwa said; “Such black market operators are not registered anywhere and not in formal business; they don’t pay taxes, rent and other required levies; this is why everyone has to stand up against them.”

Article 488 of the penal code states that “any person, who sells or exchanges the national or foreign currency illegally shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six months to two years and a fine of  Rwf200, 000 to Rwf3 million or one of these penalties.”

He put much emphasis on people operating businesses around borders to always avoid selling or buying currencies on a black market.

“Although this is not a rampant issue, we have a mandate of keeping people and their businesses safe. By putting an end to illegal money changers, we are protecting the economy and the general public benefits as well,” he said.

Both Police and BNR conduct periodic awareness campaigns to educate the business community about setting up legitimate and recognized Forex bureaus instead of conducting “black market” Forex activities that cause inflation and other economic challenges.

Such operations may give leeway to the entry of counterfeit money because both the buyer and the seller usually do it hurriedly to avoid detection.

Economists say such unlawful financial businesses may lead to distortion of foreign exchange market due to speculative transactions; dollarization of the national economy; inflation and reduction of the competitiveness of local products in the international market.

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