The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) dirty tricks department is behind a smear campaign to discredit Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) founding member, advocate Sidney Pilane, his prot├®g├®, Sadique Kebonang, and another well-known lawyer, Plato Gaoboi.
A high ranking BDP member of the party publicity committee is peddling the mud-slinging campaign based on doctored information gleaned from a report by an aggrieved client that the three lawyers colluded to defraud him of over P168 000. It has also come to light that the company behind the smear campaign was paid P500 000 to supply petrol under questionable circumstances. The company was awarded the tender although it is allegedly not registered with the registrar of companies.
An independent audit carried out by the Law Society of Botswana has, however, cleared attorney Plato Gaoboi from any claims of collusion and fraud. This was after Gaoboi’s client, Goitseone Matlakele, Managing Director of Freeca Gasoline Consortium (allegedly not registered), had accused Gaoboi, Sadique Kebonang and Advocate Sydney Pilane of colluding to defraud him.
The smear is believed to have been aimed at Pilane, while Gaoboi and Kebonang were caught in the crossfire.
Freeca was on December 24th awarded a tender to supply government with two million liters of unleaded petrol during a national fuel shortage crisis late last year. Freeca then entered into a joint venture agreement with a South African company, Montsi Investments, before the relationship later soured over allegations of non-performance. Acting on instructions from Matlakele, government made a payment of P668, 403 into Gaoboi’s trust account. Matlakele then instructed Gaoboi to transfer P500, 000 to the account of his fianc├®e, Philda Nleya.
A balance of P 168,403 remained in the trust account.
Matlakele then travelled to Nigeria on business. In his affidavit, dated June 1st, Matlakele says he later received a call from Gaoboi informing him that he had sought the help of a South African advocate as Montsi Investments had filed an urgent application against Freeca.
“He said Montsi Investments had engaged Sidney Pilane, and that our advocate wanted P 50 000 as payment. I gave him the go-ahead since we had sufficient funds,” said Matlakele.
He said he was surprised when he later found that the P 50, 000 was paid to Pilane, even though he [Pilane] was representing the opposition. He added that Gaoboi had also paid P30, 000 to Kebonang and spent the balance of P88, 403 on himself.
“This came as a shock to me as I had never sought the legal services of Pilane and Kebonang. I am disheartened by how legal representatives of such high caliber can collude to manipulate court proceedings. Gaoboi never intended to represent me until my opposition had gotten a default judgment against me, of which they were non-deserving. He had not filed any document in my defense, except a three page letter. Yet he spent P168, 403 which I left in his trust account,” said Matlakele.
However, a subsequent audit, carried out by independent auditors on instructions from LSB, found that Gaoboi was given authority to make deductions as he did, and that he kept proper books of accounts.
“On a general note, Gaoboi does keep proper books of accounts,” read the report.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Gaoboi explained that he engaged Kebonang to represent him after he was cited as a third defendant in the lawsuit filed by Montsi Investments. He communicated such to Matlakele and they agreed that they will pay Kebonang P30 000. They also agreed that Gaoboi will be paid 12 percent of the P668, 403 as collection commission.
“At the time there was no litigation against Freeca, and none was expected. However, things took a different twist when Sydney Pilane filed an urgent application against Freeca and cited me as a defendant. In the end my law firm’s trust account was frozen,” said Gaoboi.
The court also ordered Gaoboi to disclose information about his dealings with Freeca. It was then that he sought the services of Kebonang as he could not represent himself in court.
“Freeca had to bear the costs of my defense as I would not be facing any legal suit had it not been for my relationship with them,” said Gaoboi.
He added that he was also alarmed by the allegations that were leveled at his client Freeca investments.
“I was cited in as an accessory to fraud. Freeca was not even properly registered. I could not be involved in a fraudulent scheme, and I did not want to represent a company that was not even legally registered. So I advised Freeca to find another lawyer,” Gaoboi said.
Kebonang said he advised Gaoboi to cut relations with Freeca after it emerged that Matlakele and his family were also facing death threats. The death threats emerged after Gaoboi attempted to defend an order freezing Nleya’s FNB account, in which the P 500 000 had been deposited. When contesting against the freezing of her account, Nleya claimed that the account had her personal money that was not related to Freeca. However, investigations showed that she had P85 in her account before the P500 000 was deposited. The court also found that the maximum deposit that she had made prior to the P500 000 deposits was P2 628, 10. Nleya also made numerous suspect withdrawals on a single day, which at times totaled P170, 000.
In the end Montsi Investments salvaged P377, 000 from the account. Of the 168, 000 that remained in Gaoboi’s trust account, P87 000 was retained as 12 percent collection commission, while P30 000 was paid to Kebonang. P50 000 was also paid to Pilane Chambery as they had won an application for costs.