Friday, July 19, 2024

Botswana should not allow herself to be used as backyard for cleaning dirty money

Increasingly, there are worrying signs that Botswana is fast becoming a haven of cross-border international money launderers.

In a very big way, thugs, masquerading as investors, are coming here to do what by all intents and purposes amounts to cleaning dirty money.

The country’s investor friendly atmosphere is now being manipulated by foot-loose capitalists who settle here, not to do business, but to take advantage of this country as a stopover whereupon they clean the money. Some of this money is, in one way or another, related to the international drug trade.

Some of it is related to terrorism. Some of it is used to support functionaries of failed or rogue states.

However one looks at it, Botswana is not just a conduit of international money laundering, it is also fast becoming a destination of such shady maneuvers.

Because of the above, it is high time we, as a nation, took stock with the aim of reviewing our various regulations, policies and laws that are aimed at fighting money laundering.

While there is no question that we need foreign investors, it is our heartfelt belief that a mechanism, amounting to a thorough audit of people who come here under the garb of investors, is established to scrutinize the backgrounds of such people.

Also, to be looked at closely are people who come here and claim they want to make charitable donations.

Experience from elsewhere shows that other than acting to advance certain political ideologies, charitable organizations, just like is the case with Non-Governmental Organisations, are a preferred vehicle of money launderers.
The last two years Botswana has seen a groundswell of new charitable organisations of questionable origins.

A way has to be found to warn recipients of donations that they will be held as accomplices if they are found to be party to unbecoming practices.
Ignorance shall not be an excuse.

People should receive assistance from those organisations that they have established do not have shady operations as their core businesses.

In the Middle East, just after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, it was found that thousands of charitable organisations were in one or other sympathetic to terrorist causes.

It was also established that such organisations had been used by wealthy people with ties to terrorism organisations to channel money and other sorts of assistance.

Of course, by the time governments woke up, it was too late and a lot of damage and loss of lives had occurred.

Governments of the Middle East had to engage in broad-sweeping exercises to establish and audit the activities of such organisations, including going behind the scenes to verify who their benefactors were.
That is what we need in Botswana.

Again, we have no wish to support any impediments on the liberties and freedoms as guaranteed by our constitution.

But it is very important that, as a country, we ensure that Botswana’s renowned generosity and hospitality are not abused by those with sinister and ulterior motives.

It is for these reasons that we call on the Botswana Government to ensure that people do not use business as a front to clean dirty money.
Unfortunately, that is what seems to be happening.

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