Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) onetime Queen, Wilhelminah ‘Butterfly’ Maswabi, is languishing in jail after she was denied bail by the Gaborone High Court. The State has advanced arguments that she is a high flight risk and her covert training as a DIS Operative puts her at an advantage to temper with evidence and scupper the case.
Maswabi is facing three criminal charges of financing terrorism, possession of unexplained property and false declaration for passports. On Financing Terrorism, this is a charge which on its own carries life imprisonment which the State prosecutors say could be a motivating factor for one not to stand trial and flee the jurisdiction which will delay the proceedings and evidence against her to be compromised.
The state, represented by Priscilla Israel, told the court that carrying different passports was a clear indication of abuse power of which she carried diplomatic passports which allowed her easy access. “If granted bail and before the money is frozen and or restrained there is high likelihood that she will temper with the State's evidence and endeavour to recover the syphoned money that we believe belongs the State,” Israel explained.
According to the State, “There is reasonable evidence that the applicant is likely to be convicted on all the charges filed against her.” Maswabi is accused of holding US390 million in her personal account and that she has at some point transferred P29 million to former DIS Director General, Isaac Kgosi. The transfer occurred shortly after Kgosi had made remarks that he will “topple this Government”, when he was arrested at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
During the bail hearing, the prosecution pleaded with the judge do a balancing exercise between the interest of the individuals and those of the prosecution and the public in general. “If the applicant is granted bail the state and the public in general will be prejudiced in that, the applicant is trained to counter, to infiltrate and intercept in dealing with computer related activities.” In the DPP view, “taking all the factors into consideration – that is the seriousness of the offences charged coupled with their sentences this is a high motivation for one to flee the course of justice.”
“Furthermore, the integrity of evidence and money syphoned from the State accounts, we humbly submit that the public interest outweighs the interest of an individual, therefore, we pray that the application before this honourable court is without merits and the public interest should be taken into consideration and the application be dismissed.” Offering emphasis on why ‘Butterfly’ is a high flight risk and may temper with evidence, the DPP said she is an employee of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services and she has been trained as a covert officer which includes among other things interception, hacking and any operations in the cyber space.
The DPP argued that it is in the interest of justice that Maswabi be remanded in custody pending the completion of the case. “Furthermore, it is believed that the applicant is co-conspirator in the syphoning of the Government funds, the matter which is still under investigation and it is believed that she has access to the offs h ore accounts which our primary investigations are believed to have been linked to the money syphoned from the Government funds.”
The DPP made claims that Maswabi “is believed to be a long-time girlfriend of a Mr Isaac Seabelo Kgosi who is a fugitive of justice, and his who his whereabouts are still unknown to the State and there is evidence that the Ap p licant knows where Mr Kgosi is as she has transferred money to him on several occasions.”
The 46-year-old former spy agent shuddered the court when the Directorate of Public Prosecution revealed that she has a lump sum of U$390 million in her personal account. She has travelled to 18 European countries, 17 African Countries, 5 Asian countries and 13 Indonesian countries. “Butterfly” has over 5 passports in her name of which 4 were returned because they were full.
Butterfly is also alleged to be the signatory to the accounts that were used to transfer money some of which was in the sum of P48 million. Israel revealed to the court that the USD 48 million that went into that account was transferred to four different accounts of which two of the accounts the applicant is a signatory to. The two companies are alleged to have 17 different accounts which have 10 billion pula. She further clarified that these are offshore accounts.
THE STATE IS BLUFFING – MASWABI
In their heads of submission, Mack emphasized that the State should provide evidence, if they have any against the accused. He dismissed that the courts cannot be dwelling on cases on suspicion instead of facts. “We demand to see a statement [affidavit] from Bank of Botswana to confirm that an account was created and to ensure that indeed they do exist. No signatures reflect on the documents they claim to have, so how do they tell the courts that the owner of the signatures is the accused,” Mack said.
Mack elaborated that they have no knowledge of which account holds the alleged U$2.9 million, neither do they know who the holder of the account is because the state has not brought any evidence before them. “There is no proof that the Applicant is a signatory to 17 bank accounts as suggested by the State and where bank accounts are. There is no proof that the Applicant was involved in any of the alleged transactions as depicted in Annexures E, D and X. In fact, the said documents are highly suspicious as they do not show their origin, author and they are not signed,” he said.
The applicant’s attorney also made the courts aware that despite her arrest there is no evidence from the South African immigration dealing with alleged pseudo passports. Mack said the second leg deals with the Application for bail in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, in particular, Section 113 as read with Section 114 – The likelihood of the accused not standing trial; The accused interfering with investigations; or The proper administration of justice.
According to Mack if there is no likelihood of the accused failing to stand trial or interfering with investigation, then they must be admitted on bail. “The onus is on the State, if it opposes the granting of bail, to prove on a balance of probabilities that, either the accused is a flight risk or will interfere with investigations. Cogent evidence and not mere suspicion is required to convince the Court that one should not be released on bail,” he said.
Mack said in the present case, no evidence, has been provided by the State that the Applicant is actually a flight risk or that she will interfere with investigations. He admitted that at least one charge is serious, being the charge pertaining to Financing Terrorism. However he said what is critical at this stage is what evidence has been led to support the charges. He further observed that it is common cause that at this stage, the evidence placed before the Court in this regard would merely need to be prima facie and not necessarily conclusive.
“As regards the possible prejudice that the State would suffer if the Applicant is granted bail, it is submitted that none exists. If it does, it has not been set out. All that has been stated is that the Applicant will access money by means of cyber but no connection has been proved between the Applicant and any money or any bank account,” said Mack. He said Maswabi is a Motswana and the evidence led by the State does not suggest that she holds any foreign passport. “The evidence does not suggest that the Applicant is in possession of more than one valid passport.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.