Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) President Biggie Butale’s wife Galaletsang may find herself facing serious criminal charges following her failure to declare funds contrary to the Customs Act.
The couple were detained at Ramotswa Border Post following the discovery of R41 800 in her handbag which the two had failed to declare, contrary to Section 96 (1) of the Customs Act which dictates: “A person entering or leaving Botswana shall declare goods in his or her possession to the Revenue Service.” Any amount equivalent to or exceeding P10, 000 should be declared when entering or leaving Botswana.
Although the BPF president seemed to make light of the offense, repeatedly incriminating his wife while absolving himself of any blame during a series of interviews with Sunday Standard at the scene, a Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) official has informed this publication that charges against Mrs Butale may be more serious than the couple assume. “People seem to think you just forfeit the money and move on with your life,” he said.
“It’s not that simple.”
The officer made reference to certain sections of the Customs Act particularly Section 35 (1) read together with Section 96 of the Customs Act. According to Sec 35 (1) under ‘Prohibitions and Restrictions’ goods shall be prohibited where their import or export is against public order, public security… combating money laundering, and financing of an act of terrorism. A person who fails to declare their goods under section 96 of the Customs Act commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P 1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or “to treble the value of the goods in respect of such offence, whichever is greater and the goods and the container in respect of which the offence is committed shall be liable to forfeiture.”
The offense carries an even heavier penalty under the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act (PICA). Under PICA , Section 47 (1) a person who “… receives ,is in possession of, conceals, disguises, transfers, converts, disposes of, removes from or brings into Botswana any property which , in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents , the proceeds of any crime , where he or she knows, suspects or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting that the property is derived or realized , in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from any confiscation offense or foreign serious crime related activity , shall be guilty of an offense of money laundering.”
A person convicted of an offense under this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P20 million, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years, or to both.
Butale, who initially made false claims about the true amount of the money in his wife’s possession at the time of arrest, claiming it was R20 000, told the Sunday Standard that his wife had failed to disclose to him she had the cash.
“I had attended a democracy seminar in Johannesburg and had booked a return flight but my wife told me she was doing shopping in Johannesburg and asked me to drive back with her because she was tired,” Butale said. “She suggested we use this border gate (Ramotswa) because the Tlokweng Border Post is usually too busy. I asked her if she had anything to declare lest we get into trouble because of my constant harassment by the government security institutions but she said there was nothing to declare.”
The case may also open Butale and his wife up to a lifestyle audit in line with the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act. According to information from the BURS, Butale’s wife has failed to provide adequate information on the source of the R41, 800 found in her possession. While she allegedly told officers the cash were proceeds of a sale of a truck they owned, a source claims she failed to provide evidence to that effect.
The PICA under Section 30 provides that an investigator may seize currency or bearer negotiable instruments … “other classes of property considered appropriate for administrative forfeiture as may be prescribed ,if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the property is a proceed or an instrument of a confiscation offence or of a foreign serious crime related activity.”