Botswana is in the snare of international crime syndicates, among them Russian Mafia and possibly the Chinese Triads, a number of investigative researches on organized crime in Southern Africa have revealed.
Indications are that the Russian Mafia has been operating in Botswana from as far back as 1998. A report by Mark Shaw, Safety and Governance Programme, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) put together in 1998 revealed that “ available information indicates that Russian citizens are involved in the activities of a number of criminal groups in several Southern African states, particularly Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa. The Russian Mafia groups concentrate mainly on diamond and weapon smuggling, corruption, fraud and money laundering schemes, as well as investment in legitimate business.”
The report further revealed that Botswana is part of the SADC’s expanding “common criminal market” that involves bank heists, armed robberies and drug trafficking.
Another survey by ISS revealed that organized crime syndicates originating from within the various SADC countries and not necessarily international criminal groups (such as the Russian Mafia or Chinese Triads) are behind much of the crime in the region.”
In the Survey, the Botswana Police Service identified top three transnational criminal syndicates that constitute the most serious threat to Botswana’s security as “Zimbabwean, South African and Zambian”. It emerges in the report that the Zimbabwean , South African and Zambian criminal gangs have been most successful in penetrating the region and deal in a range of illicit commodities mostly stolen and hijacked motor vehicles.
The report quotes the head of the Sub Regional Bureau of Interpol in Harare saying, “There are very clear relationships and interlinking factors between crime syndicates operating in Southern Africa. It is not a secret to law enforcement agencies in the region that the criminals in the region have better co-operation links than the police officers. They seem to know who to contact at all times and budgetary constraints, foreign currency shortages, visa problems or governmental authority to travel do not control their movements.”
Related researches by Molo Songololo and another one by Charles Goredema of ISS found that crime syndicates were also involved in the trafficking of children “for sexual exploitation to South Africa from Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Lesotho.”
The research by Charles Goredema of ISS found that Botswana is not only a source of trafficked children, but is also a transit route for trafficking activities.