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DCEC refuses to return Bakangs assets

Lobatse High Court Judge, Jennifer Dube will next week Friday deliver a ruling in the P250m National Petroleum Fund (NPF) case where the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has applied for a stay of execution following an order that they return Bakang Seretse and Kenneth Kerekang’s assets.

Judge Dube had two months ago delivered a ruling in favour of Bakang and Kerekang, ordering the DCEC to release into their custody all the assets seized during the period December 2017 to date. DCEC had a day later approached a different judge in the absence of other parties asking for a stay of execution pending final arguments, and were granted the ruling.

When the parties appeared for arguments on the stay of execution on Thursday, State Chief Counsel, Julia Mokoti argued that, “the vehicles in question were crucial for the criminal proceedings. It will be very prejudicial in terms of investigation if at the end of the case it appears the money in question was used to buy the vehicles.” She added that they needed the said assets to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

On his part, Ngakaagae argued that DCEC has defied the court order, with the result that after the lapse of a day following the order, they were in contempt of the same order. “Being in contempt, and having been so notified, DCEC approached approached the High Court by night, in our absence for a stay of execution,” he told the court. He implored the court to release the vehicles to his clients as per the previous order. He told the court that his clients would not temper with the said vehicles as ordered by the court.

 “My client is a lawful owner of these vehicles. And they are law abiding citizens,” said Ngakaagae. Ngakaagae also argued that the DCEC would not suffer any prejudice should the assets be released to their owners. “It is all about egos…DCEC egos, nothing else…they are just saying we will never get what we want,” said Ngakaagae.

In the main case, Bakang, Kerekang and Botho Leburu are alleged to have between September, 05, 2017 and November, 27, 2017 in Gaborone, received over P320 million which was unlawfully taken from the NPF. The background of the case is that the then Regional Magistrate Christopher Gabanagae who has since joined the High Court as a judge, had last year December directed the DCEC to get a court order to regularise their seizure of Bakang and Kerekang’s property. The property was as such seized without serving the two applicants with court papers as required by the law.

It was after this seizure that the two applicants’ attorney Kgosietsile Ngakaagae approached the high court seeking justice for his clients. On his application, Ngakaagae sought a relief ordering the magistrate to furnish the Registrar of the high court with all pleadings as were filed by the DCEC for obtaining the search and seizure warrant; the DCEC to appear before court to show cause, if any, why the court should not make final that their search and seizure warrant be set aside.

In her ruling, Justice Dube suspended the warrant of seizure issued by the magistrate pending the final determination of the issues surrounding the validation of same by the magistrate. She however ordered Bakang and Kerekang that, “During the suspension of the warrant of seizure, the said assets are not to be sold to anyone or pass ownership in any shape or form; or to be used in such manner as to accelerate the depreciation of their value or to leave the country.”

She also gave the clerk of Broadhurst magistrate where the seizure order was granted seven days to furnish Ngakaagae with all pleadings as were filed and upon which reliance was placed by the DCEC for obtaining the search and seizure warrant. The judge went on to note that it was in the interest of justice that she leans in favour of the applicants. “The object of the court is to do justice between the parties in order to promote the proper ventilation of the dispute between them the subject of a decision. This however, must not cause prejudice to the other side,” she noted.

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DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins

29th March 2023

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.

Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.

DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.

It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.

According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.

Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.

When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.

Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.

“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.

He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said

This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.

Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.

Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.

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DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo

29th March 2023

Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.

Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.

It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”

Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.

At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.

In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.

When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.

When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.

The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.

Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.

Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.

Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.

 

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Botswana firms ICC support amid arrest warrant for Russian President

29th March 2023

The Parliament is set to discuss proposed amendments to the laws related to the International Court Court (ICC). This development coincides with reports that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for his alleged role in the conflict in Ukraine.

It is not clear if this is a coincidence. For the fourth time, last year Botswana voted against Russia during the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The country’s continued support for the ICC is expected to irk other African countries that are still questioning the credibility of the ICC and those have also sworn alligence to Russia.

It has been reported that the Minister of Justice, Ronald Shamukuni, is expected to table the Bill regarding the amendments to the laws concerning the ICC in the Parliament soon.

The Bill seeks to criminalize various international crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and aggression. It also proposes to repeal and replace the 2017 Rome Statute of the ICC with amendments.

The latest Government Gazette indicated that the 2017 Act has some legal and constitutional implications. The proposed amendments seek to address these issues.Therefore, the Bill seeks to replace the 2017 Act with a new statute that will retain some of the provisions that do not conflict with Botswana’s Constitution.

The Bill aims to ensure that the obligations of Botswana as a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC do not conflict with the country’s Constitution.

The proposed Act will include addition of the crime of aggression which was not there in the 2017 Act. The proposed Act will remove clauses that conflict with Botswana’s Constitution such as article 17 of the Rome Statute of the ICC which provides that official capacity as Head of State shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under the ICC Statute.

The import of this provision (which the new law seeks to repeal) is that Botswana Courts will be constrained by section 41 of the Constitution to try a sitting President but the International Criminal Court will not be so constrained.

The proposed Act will also result in the amendment to the extradition Act which will provide for instances where Botswana is unable to extradite, for the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to instead prosecute on behalf of the foreign country (ICC) where it is determined that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and sharing of suspected proceeds of crime and confiscated property with other countries.

“In this regard, the amendment to the Mutual Assistant in Criminal Matters Act empowers the DPP to enter into agreements for the reciprocal sharing of with a competent authority in a foreign country,” reads the note in part.

The Bill also includes a clause dealing with conspiracy which provides that a person who conspires in Botswana to commit an offence, in or outside the territory of Botswana, or who conspires outside Botswana to commit an offence in Botswana commits an offence and is liable to the same penalty as the penalty for the actual offence.

Other provisions of the Bill include those relating to superior orders not being a defence as well as the responsibilities of commanders and other supervisors. Furthermore, the Bill deals with issues such as jurisdiction which allows for proceedings to be instituted against a person under certain circumstances, where an act of constituting an offence under the Bill is committed by any person outside the territory of Botswana.

The Bill also provides that the limitations on certain criminal offences will not be applicable to the offences under the Bill. This means that the Prescriptions Act and other statutory limitations will not be applicable to the offences under the Bill. Other provisions of the Bill include the establishment of regulations and the powers of the Minister to make amendments to laws.

The latest developments involving the ICC have raised concerns about Botswana’s continued support for the court. Some of the countries that are critical of the court include Uganda and Kenya. They believe that the court only targets African countries for its alleged involvement in war crimes. In 2016, South Africa decided to withdraw from the ICC. South Africa was the second African nation to withdraw from the court after Burundi.

The decision by South Africa followed a controversy in 2015 when Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir was invited to the country despite an ICC warrant for his arrest. Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan President, at that time commended South Africa for its decision to withdraw from the court.

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