The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime is accused of playing dirty to get a court order to seize properties belonging businessman Bakang Seretse and his co accused.
Seretse, Kenneth Kerekang and Botho Leburu are currently facing money laundering charges.
It emerges in papers before the High Court that the then regional Magistrate Chris Gabanagae had directed the DCEC to get a court order to regularise their seizure of Seretse’s property. The DCEC last year December seized the property belonging to Seretse and his co-accused.
It emerged this week that the DCEC went behind the back of the money laundering accused trio and secured an order from a different magistrate. The DCEC did not serve Seretse and other accused persons with court papers as required by the law.
Seretse’s lawyer, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae told Justice Jennifer Dube of Lobatse High Court on Friday that they were shocked by the DCEC’s expedient comportment who went behind their back and regularized their decision to seize the accused person’s property without a warrant in December last year.
Seretse and other accused persons had approached the then Magistrate Gabanagae requesting the court to direct that the decision by the DCEC to seize property without a warrant was unlawful. Gabanagae agreed that the decision be regularized by the DCEC through securing a court order to seize properties.
“You can’t take people’s properties without giving them audience,” said Ngakaagae. He pointed out that regional Magistrate Gabanagae issued a court directing that the DCEC should have regularized the seizure of properties for the accused persons within 14 days (from 7th to 21 July).
He revealed that the DCEC then made an application before another magistrate seeking validation of the seizer of the properties in the absence of the accused persons.
“They have refused to serve clients with papers. They are obligated to serve my client with papers because they made an application in which they cited my client but never served him. They sought an absolute order and not a rule nice (temporary order), shutting the doors of justice without a hearing,” he said.
Ngakaagae noted that instead of asking for a temporary order to allow his clients to be heard the DCEC sought an absolute order.
“You can’t decide a matter in the absence of another party in secret with a judicial officer (Magistrate). The DCEC have refused to rectify this,” he said. Ngakaagae told the court that after securing the order in his client’s absence, the DCEC refused to share the order with them.
“Following an order by his worship Gabanagae’s decision that the seizer of the property should be regularized, the DCEC went to court alone to secure a warrant,” said Ngakaagae.
Justice Dube asked Ngakaagae to state the reasons provided by DCEC to refuse to serve them with court records. “They simply refused. This is totally unheard of in our justice system; this is a legal abomination. May they be directed to give us the record,” he said.
State Chief Counsel Julia Mokoti said the application by Seretse was not properly before the High Court because there was no record from the Magistrate court to assist Justice Dube to review the decision of the lower court. She said Seretse and other accused persons wanted the proceedings of the Magistrate Court to be set aside without a record from the magistrate.
Dube interjected and said “But what they seek is that this court must order the Magistrate to release the same record.”
Mokoti said Seretse should have informed the High Court that they were facing criminal charges.
“The properties have been bought through the proceeds of crime. There is a lot of money involved which belongs to the public,” she said. Dube reminded Mokoti that Gabanagae had directed that the DCEC should regularise the seizure of properties which they did but did not invite the accused persons when they appeared before another magistrate to do that. Mokoti said the DCEC was “sanctioned by law to seize properties of suspects” adding that this was regularized by the Magistrate Court. When asked by Dube if the order to seize properties was properly obtained, Mokoti answered in the affirmative.
Dube also wondered why the DCEC did not inform the accused persons about the order they had obtained which regularized the seizure of their properties which was obtained without affording them a hearing. Mokoti said “we did whatever the law requires us to do.”
Dube added that “as a representative of the State, where is the record?” to which Mokoti responded thus “it is at the Magistrate court.”