Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Botswana’s judiciary untested in trying money laundering cases

While adjudging Botswana to have an “independent and capable judicial system”, assessors from an inter-governmental financial action task force that Botswana is part of, doubt the ability of that same judicial system to competently handle money laundering cases.

In the language used by assessors from the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), Botswana’s judicial system “has not yet been tested in as far as money laundering cases using the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act are concerned.” The problem has to do with high staff turnover, fully booked court diaries, non-availability of witnesses as well as transfer or resignation of judicial officers.

“There is generally a low understanding of money laundering/terrorism financing risks in Botswana,” says an ESAAMLG report that followed a 2016 visit by the assessors. “The reporting entities and their supervisors are still familiarising themselves with requirements of the Financial Intelligence Act. There have been very few money laundering cases investigated and two cases prosecuted (using the repealed Proceeds of Serious Crime Act). Despite some of the officers having received training in money laundering investigations, they do not pursue money laundering cases but predicate offences. There is need for the investigators to apply skills gained so far, in addition provide more specialised training on money laundering investigations and prosecution. There is low understanding of money laundering/terrorism financing risks across the spectrum.”

A visit to the Botswana Unified Revenue Services revealed that the latter was not investigating any money laundering related cases: all investigations related to money laundering were referred to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, which in turn referred such cases to the Anti-Corruption Unit of the DPP for prosecution. A year before this visit, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had established an Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). However, the assessors found the AFU to be still at infancy stage and not getting support from all stakeholders at national level. They also found DPP, which is responsible for guiding investigations and prosecutions of money laundering cases as well as confiscation cases, to be inadequately resourced.

“It has limited skilled and experienced prosecutors in money laundering and asset recovery. This situation has been compounded by the high staff turn-over of the few experienced and trained prosecutors’ available, further exacerbating capacity issues at the DPP,” says the report adding that prosecution in the DPP is not prioritised according to risk factors, nor are such risk areas prioritised in training and allocation of resources. “Further, the DPP has not taken specific measures to determine the extent of the money laundering risk posed by some of the predicate offences that are not yet criminalised.”

All these details come as DPP is prosecuting three actors (Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang) in a P250 million laundering case. The money was allegedly laundered from the National Petroleum Fund.

According to the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, ESAAMLG assessors will be visiting Botswana again beginning this month.


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