The director of the Bank of Sudan branch in El Fasher, Hassan Osman, warned of the economic consequences of the Mawasir market scam. The bank official told Radio Dabanga’s ‘On the Scale’ programme that the scam involved more than one billion Sudanese pounds (about 45 million USD or 34 million euros).
Victims of the money-generating scheme sold goods to the Mawasir scammers at above-market prices but were paid in cheques rather than cash. When the victims went to redeem their cheques at the bank they were unable. The Mawasir group had re-sold the goods and pocketed the money for themselves. Hundreds of city residents lost money. Two parliamentary candidates of the National Congress Party disappeared as the scheme began to unravel and were later named as fugitives in the case.
Osman said that the Mawasir plotters have to either surrender their entire profits to the government or else claim a certain amount of money as theirs and return the rest back to the state. Otherwise they have to prove that their company was registered legally, in which case they may declare bankruptcy. But one attorney who spoke to Radio Dabanga from Khartoum, Nasireldeen Yousif, pointed out that the Mawasir plotters may have violated the laws requiring proper registration of businesses, as well as the Illegal Profits Act.
A local imam who did not want to be named suggested that the entire scheme was also against Sharia law. He referred to a principle of Islamic law known as ‘riba’ (usury), explaining: “It is totally forbidden when someone goes there with a specific amount of money, he pays this, then after a period of time this amount increases and this kind of increase which is an increase of the capital sum and that for example if this person put 5,000 pounds and this increased into 7,000 pounds or 40,000 — God has forbidden this kind of increase and profit.”
Traders in El Fasher last week complained to Radio Dabanga of lack of liquidity in the market and a sharp rise in the prices of meat and other food items. It is not clear whether this development is related to the Mawasir market scam. There has also been a poor agricultural season.