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P100 billion case: RSA judge says it is falsehood

A South African judge, Justice Dennis Davis, long found that the P100 billion looting case was based on falsehoods. His findings, though not publicized, were made before Gaborone High Court Judge Dr. Zein Kebonang arrived at the same conclusion in a related case in which suspended intelligence officer Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi codenamed ‘Butterfly’ was sought for her charges to be quashed. Maswabi faced terrorism financing, money laundering, and corruption charges. Judge Kebonang found that the charges were fabricated.

South African businesswoman, Bridgette Motsepe who is implicated alongside former President Ian Khama and former Director of Directorate of Intelligence and Services (DIS), Isaac Kgosi, enlisted the services of Justice Davis, who has retired from the bench and currently consults for South African Revenue Services to offer a legal opinion in a related case in which the Directorate of Public Prosecutions through Afriforum brought an application before the Gauteng High Court to compel the South African government to provide necessary information and assistance in terms of a Mutual Legal Assistance based on allegations money laundering. He also offered another legal opinion in a case in which she is suing Botswana Government for defamation.

In the first legal opinion, dated 26 June 2021, Davis explained that he had been instructed that the Botswana State’s case appeared to be that former President and Motsepe intended to use those funds to generate opposition against the current President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Davis further explained that “Although the politics appear to dominate the entire saga, this opinion is focused on one issue. It appears that the Afriforum application is designed to obtain mutual assistance concerning the involvement in the secreting of funds out of Botswana in breach of the relevant Botswana law, and the Ambassador (Motsepe) is implicated therein.”

He said that while this opinion is concerned solely with the allegations against Motsepe and thus is not designed to express any view on the prosecution of Maswabi, of necessity, it is required to traverse some of the relevant issues concerning the case. Davis said the allegations against Motsepe begin with the supposed role played by Mahktota Bank, which is allegedly a financial institution located in Jarkata, Indonesia.

Davis found that it has no internet presence besides its site, its blog, and other websites that state it exists. “The website itself does not list its license number nor the link for its banking filing. Further, a series of publicly available communications suggest nothing more than a front for financial scams. The dubious role of Mahkota bank is reflected in the fact that in records maintained by the Indonesian Financial Services Authority and the Indonesian Central Securities Depository, there is no entity of that kind that is authorised to act as a financial institution in India,” said Davis.

He said on its own this might not be conclusive evidence to justify my conclusion. However, most certainly, it should place any lawyer acting according to the standard of a reasonable practitioner on their guard.

“Mr. Hubona ((Jako Hubona, the investigating officer in the case) then alleges that on 15 February 2019, Mr. Khrisna transferred USD 48 million from Mahkota Bank to an account number 200904299 held at the Alberton branch of Standard Bank of South Africa. It is further alleged that these funds were cleared by the South African Reserve Bank on 21 February 2019,” said Davis. However, he said, on 13 August 2020, the South African Reserve bank refuted the existence of this alleged transfer in a letter that was addressed to Motsepe via her attorney Dr. Dario Milo.

“This view has been confirmed to me by Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo. I have also confirmed with Mr. Reggie Reatile, a member of the Botswanan Parliament who asked the Governor of the Bank of Botswana questions about whether funds had flowed out of Botswana and which would substantiate the allegations that were made. He confirmed that the Governor refuted any such claims as baseless,” said Davis.

He added that “If any further justification is required for the conclusion that any case which has been brought has been predicated not on legal but on exclusively political grounds, then that can be found by an examination of the affidavit written and signed by Mr. Hubona.” According to Davis, it is difficult to find an affidavit that lacks legal substance, accurate factual averments, or any plausible case against anyone named in the affidavit.

He said disturbing inconsistencies are evident in the various allegations set out in the affidavit. In another supplementary legal opinion dated 30 June 2021, Justice Davis questioned the integrity of the then lead Prosecutor in the case Priscilla Israel (now Deputy Director of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) and Hubona as the investigating officer in the case.

Davis cited an email of Priscilla Israel, then the head of the International Cooperation Unit within Botswana’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions, to Berdine Schutte and Herman Van Heerden of South Africa’s Department of Justice.

Israel reportedly states the following; “We submitted an urgent request on Mutual Legal Assistant relating to the Bank of Botswana fraud and Money Laundering case. Another matter related to it (sic) is a request for mutual legal assistance concerning Avante Securities.” The request relates to Motsepe and Makaku Mining.

Davis stated that on 23 November, Israel deposited a supporting affidavit which was filed together with the Government of Botswana’s answering affidavit in the defamation application launched by Motsepe on 23 October 2020 before the High Court of Botswana.

She reported that “During our inquiry, we discovered that the applicant was involved in the transfer of funds to the Republic of Botswana for the benefit of the former President Dr. Ian Khama Seretse Khama through a Botswana registered company the name of Avante Security Services (Pty) Ltd.”

She added in the affidavit that “I must point out prior my departure I was aware that the Botswana Police Service) was investigating an allegation of money laundering against Makua Mmakau mining, Mr. Olebeng Ngwakwena, Lazarus Mbethe, Mr. Paul Langa and Zonkezizwe Pty Ltd which matter is registered in our office for mutual legal assistance under file number CCG 2/14/68having been received om the 14th May 2019 from the Botswana Police Services.”

Israel also stated that “Furthermore, a request for mutual legal assistance had already been sent to the Republic of Seychelles on 2nd September 2019 and to the Republic of South Africa on the 9th October 2019. A further request was subsequently made to India on the 20th of January 2020.

We have received responses from India and Seychelles, but we are still following up with these countries. We are awaiting a response from the Republic of South Africa.” “The investigations revealed that Avante Security Services Botswana was initially wholly owned by a Botswana citizen Mr. Olebeng Ngwakwena.

However, in 2017, it was purchased by Zonkezizwe Pty Ltd, a South African registered entity. The said company is the owner (sic) and controlled by a Mr. Langa and a Mr. Mbethe. Mr. Olebeng Ngwakena’s shareholding has been reduced to 26% with Zonkizizwe holding 74%,” Israel is quoted as saying in her affidavit.

Giving a legal opinion on this, Davis said a careful analysis of these documents confirms that which he had concluded in his previous opinion, namely that Israel and by extension the application for mutual assistance “is based on so flimsy a legal edifice to justify the conclusion that these proceedings are based on a political as opposed to a legal agenda.”

He said,

“Israel’s affidavit is truly a problematic document in that it is replete with pure unsubstantiated speculation,” adding that “a few examples suffice to justify this.”
According to Justice Davis, confronting the problem that the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has stated that no money passed through its records by way of a remittal, Israel says: “Significantly the Reserve Bank does not state that it did not authorize the release of the funds, but rather it could not find any record of the transaction referred to as well as the authority. It is my averment that the results of our request will bear fruit.”

Davis said for Israel cast doubt on the SARB’s response to the allegation that sums of money being remitted into SA is disingenuous at best and have no place in a court of law. It is an attempt to use hermeneutics to counter the obvious-no such money came into the country.

“Similarly, Advocate Israel suggests that the respondents (Botswana Government), through their investigations, have established that the names Fire Files and Blue Files (companies whose accounts the money was transferred) “are code names, the actual bank account names are still to be established.” Davis found that later Israel suggests that these two are actual companies, a passage that seems to have been drafted in ignorance of the code name argument.

“The contention that companies like Fire Files and Blue Files are code names is an attempt designed to explain away the evidence of the SA Banks regarding the absence of accounts in these names. It means that Advocate Israel is alleging these banks to process somehow money that is below the SARB radar into secret accounts known by code but not by real corporate entities,” said Davis.
He said, “while these points do not apply directly to Avante and the allegations related to it, they go directly to clear lack of credibility on both Advocate Israel and Mr. Hubona.”

Davis said the problem facing Afriforum concerning Avante and the allegations related thereto is the following. In the light of the manifest difficulties concerning the overall case of money laundering, it is confronted with these improbable references: that the relevant consultancy agreement entered into between Avante and Mmakau was but a sham, that SARB was led astray in the permitting money to be paid out for security services plus expenses and that the entire structure and hence the payments made to Avante were in truth for the benefit of former President Khama.

There is nothing in papers made available to justify this level of inference, particularly in that the recipient is a company that provides security services to mining enterprises. There is nothing to suggest otherwise in the documents made available to me.

He said there is a further implication of the strategy adopted to allege South African complicity with money laundering in Botswana as described in both this opinion and my opinion relating to the Bank of Botswana matter. The only evidence, said Davis, is that no such money entered South Africa nor any plausible cash was paid into bank accounts of South African entities.

He warned that “To persist with these allegations is to suggest that both the South African Reserve Bank and a range of South African banks were either party to a conspiracy, have misrepresented the true position of or have all been grossly incompetent. This only has to be stated to illustrate that the course of action of Advocate Israel assisted by Afriforum seriously calls into question the very integrity of the South African banking system and the key regulatory institution.”

“Without any evidence to the contrary which has never been produced or plausibly offered, this course of conduct has been adopted for reasons which absent any evidence, allows only for any reasonable inference to be drawn, namely that political considerations have overridden any legal justification for pursuing this application should thus be treated as unsubstantiated on the country’s banking system,” he further warned.

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29 SEPTEMBER 2023 Publication

29th September 2023

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BMD disapproves homosexuality

26th September 2023

The newly elected Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Executive Committee led by Pastor Reverend Thuso Tiego has declared their disapproval of homosexuality saying it is anti-Christianity and Botswana culture.

Speaking at a Media Briefing this past week, BMD President Tiego said Botswana has been a country that respects culture hence endorsing homosexuality will be catastrophic.

“Our young generation grew up being taught about types of families, if homosexuality is passed, at what age will our children be introduced to homosexuality?” he rhetorically asked.

He continued: “If we are going to allow homosexuality then the next day, another person will come and say he wants to practice bestiality. What are we going to do because we have already allowed for this one (homosexuality) and at the end it will be a total mess.” Bestiality is sexual relations between a human being and an animal

This according to Tiego will give those people an opportunity thus disrupting known Botswana beliefs. He however dismissed any notion that the decision to condemn homosexuality should not be linked to the top two of the committee who are men of cloth. “This is a decision by the whole committee which respects the culture of Botswana and it should not be perceived that because we are clergymen we are influencing them, but even if we do, politics and religion are inter-related.”

Of late the church and the human rights organization have been up in arms because of the high court decision to allow for same sex marriages. Ministries ganged up, petitioned parliament and threatened to vote out any legislator who will support the idea. The ruling party, BDP which was to table the amendment in the constitution, ended up deferring it.

BMD President further revealed that he is aware of what really led to the split of the party and he is on course to transform as they approach 2024 elections.

“There are so many factors that led to split of party amongst others being leadership disputes, personal egos and ambitions, toxic factionalism and ideological difference just to mention a few, but we are transforming the party and I am confident that we will do well in the coming elections.

In addition, Tiego is hopeful that they will take the government as they feel it is time to rebrand Botswana politics and bring in fresh blood of leaders.

He further hinted that they are coming with positive transformation as they eye to better the lives of Batswana.

“When we assume government, we promise to be transparent, free and fair electoral processes and encourage pluralism as way of getting back to our roots of being a democratic country as it seems like the current government has forgotten about that important aspect,” Tiego explained.

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North Korea diplomats in suspected illegal ivory trade

26th September 2023

Reeling under the increasing barrage of stinging international sanctions, the isolated North Korean regime is reportedly up to its old trickery, this time in a more complicated web of murky operations that have got the authorities of five southern African countries at sixes and sevens as they desperately try to tighten their dragnet around Pyongyang’s spectral network of illicit ivory and rhino horn trade.

It is an intricate network of poaching for elephant tusks and rhino horns that spans Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the main sources of the contraband being Botswana and South Africa.

The syndicate running the illegal trafficking of the poached contraband is suspected to be controlled by two shadowy North Korean government operatives with close links to one Han Tae-song, a disgraced North Korean career diplomat who, while serving as the second secretary at his country’s embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, was expelled in 1992 after he was fingered as the mastermind behind a similar illegal ring that was busted by the country’s authorities.

This disturbing tale of malfeasance by North Korean state actors is as real as it gets.

Recent reports indicate that authorities in the source countries are jointly battling to plug holes created by the shadowy syndicate which allegedly has on its payroll, park rangers, border officials and cross-border truck drivers.

Even more disturbing are allegations that some wildlife officials are conniving in misrepresenting numbers of retrieved rhino horns and ivory from poachers and getting kickbacks for their involvement in the pilfering of ivory and rhino horns from government stockpiles especially in South Africa.

In a shocking and well-orchestrated movie-style heist in South Africa, thieves in June this year made off with 51 rhino horns after breaking into a very secure government stockpile facility of the North West Parks Board (NWPB).

While some suspects from South Africa and Malawi were nabbed in a government sting operation, none of the rhino horns – 14 of which were very large specimens that can fetch serious money on the black market – were recovered.

A report of the heist said the police were lethargic by eight hours in responding to an emergency alert of the robbery which was described by North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone as “… a case of business robbery…”

Thabang Moko, a security analyst in Pretoria says the military precision in the burglary, delays in police response, and failure to recover the stolen rhino horns is dubious. “This development lends credence to suspicions that some government officials could be part of a shadowy syndicate run by foreign buyers of rhino horns and ivory,” Moko says.

It is understood that in light of the rhino horns heist in North West, South Africa’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy on 1 August, shared her concerns to her counterparts in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique calling for greater regional cooperation to combat the illegal wildlife trafficking which she believes is being masterminded by the Far East’s buyers of the ill-gotten horns and ivory.

It is believed that foreign kingpins involved in perpetuating the illegal trade are mainly North Koreans vying against Vietnamese and Cambodian buyers in the quest for dominance of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory sourced from southern Africa.

Creecy’s concerns, which she also shared to South Africa’s state-run broadcaster SABC, echoed Moko’s worries that the North West heist may have been an inside job.

According to Creecy, there was a need for the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol)’s greater involvement in joint investigations by affected countries as there were indications of ‘local knowledge’ of the North West job and that syndicates, “Higher up the value chain actually recruit park rangers to the illegal ivory trade network.”

Botswana’s Environment and Tourism Minister Philda Kereng is on national record admitting that poaching was a source of headaches to her government, especially considering that the daring poachers were making successful incursions into secure areas protected by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).

This came after poachers gunned down two white rhinos at the BDF-protected Khama Rhino Sanctuary in August 2022 despite Kereng putting the time frame of the killings between October and November 2022.

Kereng hinted at the existence of Asian controlled syndicates and acknowledged that the surge in poaching in Botswana is driven by the “increased demand for rhino horn on the international market” where in Asia rhino horns are believed to be potent in traditional medicines and for their imagined therapeutic properties.

Botswana has in the past recorded an incident of a group of an all-Asian reconnaissance advance team teams being nabbed by the country’s intelligence service in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary.

Masquerading as tourists, the group, with suspected links to North Korea and China, was discovered to be collecting crucial data for poachers.

Also according to reliable information at hand, an undisclosed number of wildlife parks rangers were arrested between September 2022 and January this year, after information surfaced that they connived in the smuggling of rhino horns and ivory from Botswana.

One of the rangers reportedly admitted getting paid to falsify information on recovered horns and ivory which were smuggled out of the country through its vast and porous eastern border with South Africa, and making their way to their final destination in Mozambique via back roads and farmlands in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“We are aware that in the past year, some rhino horns and ivory illegally obtained from Botswana through poaching activities and shady deals by some elements within our wildlife and national parks department, have found their way out of the country and end up in Mozambique’s coastal ports for shipment to the Far East,” a Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) source says.

Independent investigations reveal that two North Korean buyers, one of them only identified as Yi Kang-dae [confirmed to be an intelligence official in the country’s state security apparatus], acting on behalf of the disgraced Han Tae-song, financed the entire operation on two occasions between 2022 and 2023, to move at least 18 rhino horns and 19 elephant tusks from Botswana, including pay-offs – mostly to border patrol and customs officials for safe passage – along the knotty conduit across South Africa’s north western lands, then across south-eastern Zimbabwe into Mozambique.

According to a trusted cross-border transport operator in Zimbabwe, the rhino horns and elephant tusks were illegally handed over to smugglers in Mozambique at an obscure illegal crossing point 15km north of Zimbabwe’s Forbes Border Post in November 2022 and February this year.

The end buyers in Mozambique? “It is quite an embarrassment for us, but we have solid evidence that two North Korean buyers, one of them who is linked to a former notorious diplomat from that country who has been in the past involved in such illegal activities in Zimbabwe, oversaw the loading of rhino horns and ivory onto a China-bound ship from one of our ports,” a top government source in Maputo said before declining to divulge more information citing ongoing investigations.


Yi Kang-dae and his accomplice’s whereabouts are presently unclear to Mozambican authorities whose dragnet reportedly recently netted some key actors of the network. Han Tae-song currently serves as North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Switzerland.

North Korean diplomats have in the past used Mozambique as a final transit point for the shipment of rhino horns to the Far East.

In May 2015, Mozambican authorities nabbed two North Koreans, one of them a Pretoria-based diplomat and political counsellor identified as Pak Chol-jun after they were caught in possession of 4.5kg of rhino horn pieces and US$100,000 cash.

Pak’s accomplice, Kim Jong-su, a Taekwondo instructor also based in South Africa, was fingered as a North Korean spy and returned to North Korea under suspicious circumstances on the heels of Pak’s expulsion from South Africa in November 2016.

A security source in Zimbabwe closely following current developments says there is a big chance that Han Tae-song may have revived the old smuggling network he ran while posted in Zimbabwe in the 90s.

“The biting international sanctions against North Korea in the past decade may have prompted Han to reawaken his network which has been dormant for some time,” the source says. “There is no telling if the shady network is dead now given that Han’s two front men have not been nabbed in Mozambique. More joint vigilance is needed to destroy the operation at the source and at the end of the line.”

North Korean diplomats have, as early as October 1976, been fingered for engaging in illegal activities ranging from possession of and trade in ivory pieces, trade in diamonds and gold, the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit currencies, pharmaceuticals, and the sale on the black market, of a paraphernalia of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and other trinkets on the back of protracted and biting international sanctions against the reclusive state for its gross human rights abuses against its own people and flagrant nuclear tests.

These illegal activities, according to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, have raked in at least US$500m annually for the Pyongyang regime. Other global studies estimate that North Korea’s illegal earnings from the black market are around $1bn annually, and are being channelled towards the country’s nuclear weapons programme, while ordinary North Koreans continue to die of mass starvation.

In February 2014, Botswana, citing systematic human rights violations, severed ties with North Korea with the former’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi (then vice president) calling North Korea an ‘evil nation’ on 23 September 2016, at a United Nations General Assembly forum in Washington, USA.

Botswana has close to 132,000 elephants, more than any of its four neighbouring countries, namely Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to a 2022 Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) Elephant Survey.

The rhino population in Botswana has significantly dwindled, with poaching a leading cause of the decimation of the country’s rhinos. Despite dehorning and relocating its diminishing rhino population from the extensive Okavango Delta to undisclosed sanctuaries, Botswana has since 2018, lost 138 rhinos to poachers.

The sharp spike in rhino poaching in Botswana came after the country’s government made a controversial decision to disarm park rangers in early 2018.

In a statement delivered in November 2022 to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP-19 in Panama, the Botswana government instead blamed the surge in poaching to a shift of foreign-sponsored organised poaching organisations from South Africa to Botswana.

“This increase in rhino poaching in Botswana coincided with a decline of rhino poaching in South Africa from 2018 to 2020, suggesting a displacement of the poaching syndicates from South Africa to Botswana,” the statement reads. “The recent decline in rhino poaching in Botswana (2021 and 2022, relative to 2020) coincides with the increase in rhino poaching in Namibia and South Africa, further suggesting displacement of the poaching syndicates across the sub-region.”

According to the Botswana government, as of 13 November 2022 the country has secreted its shrinking rhinos (only 285 white rhinos and 23 black rhinos) in undisclosed locations within the country’s borders.

South Africa has close to 15,000 rhinos. Between January and June 2022 alone, poachers killed 260 rhinos in South Africa for their horns. The country is home to the majority of Africa’s white rhinos, a species whose existence remains under threat of extinction due to poaching.

The major threat posed by foreign state actors including those from North Korea, to southern Africa’s rhino and elephant population remains grim as the bulk of the rhino horns and elephant tusks reportedly continue finding their way to the Far East, where China is being used as the major distribution centre.

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