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BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the ‘Review of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF)’ multi-million Pula looting scandal have called off investigations into the matter.
The committee, led by Member of Parliament Abram Kesupile, was tasked with conducting a review of the NPF with the view to assessing the veracity or otherwise of financial impropriety of the petroleum fund.
The review followed a motion tabled by Specially Elected MP Mephato Reatile in 2018. It entailed examination of financial records and other related communications as well as interviewing key witnesses in the NPF scandal that has shocked the nation.
Addressing Parliament this week Kesupile said the decision to abandon the enquiry followed advice by the Attorney General’s office that it would be in the best interest of the case that the Committee left the matter to the courts.
“Shortly after the commencement of our work, the law enforcement agencies started vigorously to investigate the same issue leading to arrests of certain persons some of who were very key to our review and some indeed had appeared before the committee,” Kesupile said.
As a result, the Kanye South legislator said, they found that they could not summon certain witnesses to appear before the committee as the witnesses pleaded that the matter was still sub judice and as such did not wish to put themselves in positions of self-incrimination.
“When the committee adjourned last year on December 10, 2018 it was mainly to agree on finalising our assignment with a view to then preparing a report for this house. I wish to state therefore …that it was at this meeting that the issue as to whether we could proceed as we had been doing arose and this then led to an opinion being sought from the Attorney General looking at events unravelling in the courts regarding the matter,” Kesupile told parliament.
He said the committee then met and reflected on the AG’s advice before agreeing in the majority that there was wisdom in the legal advice and therefore could not proceed with the enquiry.
Suspects in the P250 million white collar heist have included among others Bakang Seretse, Judge Zein Kebonang, his twin brother and former Trade Minister Sadique Kebonang, Executive Director of Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) Kenneth Kerekang.
They recently appeared again at the Broadhurst Magistrate Court charged with money laundering among other charges as the case continues. The prosecution has promised to add more charges and suspects as the case continues.
The P250 million intended for the construction of fuel storage tanks for the DISS (Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services) was traced to Israel.
The transaction attracted interest from financial watchdogs like the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), Bank of Botswana, Capital Bank as well as the United States based financial agencies that monitor fraud.
The money had initially been requested by then Director General of DISS, Isaac Kgosi, to build fuel containers for security agencies but ended up transferred to Israel to pay for military, anti-poaching and surveillance equipment.
On August 2017, Kgosi wrote a confidential Savingram to the then Director of Energy Department, Kenneth Kerekang, requesting a total of P250 million to be used in the construction of Petroleum Storage Facilities.
The transaction attracted the attention of financial watch-dogs which uncovered a string of suspicious transactions, a web of interconnected companies with cross shareholdings and intrigues snowballing into money laundering criminal charges against some of Botswana’s prominent investment executives and political leaders.