Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Debswana rogue spy op explodes

Sordid details are emerging of how former Debswana Managing Director Albert Milton went rogue and misused company money to finance an illegal spying operation so secret that no one outside his tight knit group knew about it.

Sunday Standard investigations suggest this was a text book intelligence black op with plausible deniability. There is no documentation on the operation, all agreements were made by handshake and no one outside the rogue unit can speak authoritatively about it.

Last week, the cloak and dagger operation was unravelling into a PR nightmare and an industrial relations hot potato. It has even emerged that Milton was aware that the operation was outside the law. Court records reveal INFOTRAC which is locked in a P110 million legal dispute with the mining giant was briefed that the clandestine operation should be carried out behind the back of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

Court documents by INFOTRAC state, “ furthermore we are also required by your client to ensure that the DIS does not come to know of the procurement and supply of the spy equipment because that may have raised questions of breach of national security given that Debswana does not have authority for procurement of such equipment.

“Needless to say we delivered the equipment, your client demanded that INFOTRAC must use wrong narration/ and or description, issued our invoices and were duly paid. The purpose of this narration was to avoid the workers union finding out about Debswana’s strategy of spying on them.”

The scandal over the Debswana rogue spying operation snowballed into an industrial relations controversy last week with the Botswana Mining Workers union (BMWU)accusing management of dishonesty.

The union issued a statement this week that it was in possession of information indicating that on or around September 2018, Debswana had surveillance spy equipment installed at its premises and in vehicles with intention to spy on staff, especially members of the BMWU.

“The union is thus outraged that Management would sanction such illegal means to secretly pry on the affairs of its staff and union members at the workplace. The union is of the opinion that there has been material breach of the industrial relations between BMWU and Debswana Management,” BMWU said.

Debswana reiterated that it does not have a programme of covert surveillance on its employees and business partners. “Senior leadership has not sanctioned nor is it aware of any spying on employees. This matter is under investigation.”

The spying operation was not an isolated rogue operation by INFORTRAC on behalf of the Debswana high command. Sunday Standard has in its possession documents detailing how the late Debswana Managing Director, Albert Milton allegedly promised IFORTRAC millions of pula as an inducement for them to falsify findings of an investigation against him.

One of the documents details minutes of a meeting between INFOTRAC represented by Mompoloki Motshidi identified as managing Director, Tsolofelo Mvungama identified as Technical Partner and Debswana officers.

During the meeting Motshidi and Mvungama made starling allegations that Debswana employees had caused for varying of a consultancy service following which the appointment of Albert Milton as managing Director was possible.

Sunday Standard can reveal that the former Debswana Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo had at one time engaged INFORTRAC to investigate Milton. At the time Milton was General Manager at Jwaneng Mine.

In a curious turn of events, INFOTRAC instead investigated alleged favouritism by Bonyongo and in their report vindicated and exonerated Milton of any wrong doing.

Now INFOTRACT is backtracking on its findings claiming that Milton was acquitted of all wrongdoing because there was a back-to-back deal between himself, a few Debswana executives and INFORTRAC’s Mompoloki Motshidi.

“Subsequent to the official order Debswana representatives (Mpho Kewakae, Tshephang Mazwigwila} engaged with him [Motshidi] on different occasions to change the original scope to ensure that the findings of the report will not jeorpardise Albert Milton’s opportunity to be appointed the MD. The work was to ensure that he assists in the best possible way to ensure that he pulls all the strings to ensure the appointment. He did admit that part of this meant him deploying unconventional means to get whatever information needed or to pull strings,” reads minutes of the meeting in part.

INFORTRAC is now suing Debswana P110 millions for services rendered. Debswana on the other hand has distanced itself from the operation stopping short of dismissing it as rogue.

The diamond giant cited as the defendant denies that it is indebted to INFOTRAC.

Debswana insists that whether in the respects alleged, or in the amount claimed or at all, it is not liable and says maybe “Milton could be held responsible for the debt.”

Debswana also denies the terms of ‘the contract entered between INFOTRAC and the diamond mining company as pleaded by the intelligence gathering entity.

According Debswana lawyers, Armstrongs: “The services referred to in the Plaintiff (INFOTRAC), particulars of claim and which are the subject matter of the Plaintiff’s claim were not contracted by the Defendant (Debswana).”

John Carr-Hartley of Armstrongs Attorneys further states: “In the event that the services which are the subject matter of the Plaintiff’s claim were in fact rendered, such services were not rendered to the Defendant but were rendered personally to the late Albert Milton and/or Tshepang and Mazwigwila and not the defendant.”  

“The defendant further denies the quantum of the damages claimed and is not liable nor indebted to the Plaintiff in the respects alleged at all,”

Through its director, Mompoloki Motshidi, INFOTRAC Pty Ltd argues that Debswana failed/refused to discharge its obligation by failing to make full payment or any part thereof for services rendered to it in respect of the parties’ oral consultancy agreement and thus in breach of the parties’ agreement.

“The defendant further engaged a third party to facilitate discussions pertaining to settlement of the initial claim,” said the company.

Giving a background of what gave rise to the dispute, INFOTRAC states that “On or about the 6th January 2018 at Gaborone, the defendant represented by its then Managing Director, the late Albert Milton one Mr. Mazwigwila one Mr. Kewakae and one Mr Keitumetse entered into an oral agreement in terms whereof the Plaintiff agreed to provide consultancy services to the Defendant.”

Among some of the consultancy services that the company was to provide was to probe favouritism at the work place by the former managing director and ensure that Milton was appointed Managing Director.

“Following the conclusion of the provision of consultancy agreement between the parties, the plaintiff dully discharged its obligations in addition, the Plaintiff delivered the services on time, i.e. before the due date.  

The plaintiff on numerous occasions demanded that the defendant remedy the breach but the defendant failed to do so despite its numerous undertakings to pay,” INFOTRAC stated.

The company stated that “As a result of the breach by the defendant, the plaintiff is entitled to recover all the monies due owing and payable to it for services it rendered to the plaintiff.”

The latest Debswana rogue spy operation harks back to the dark chapter of its association with Executive Outcomes, a notorious mercenary outfit.

International publications covering the re-surfacing of Executive Outcomes in the war against terrorist group Boko Haram five years ago traced the mercenary outfit to Debswana were the mercenary army had the first contract that launched them.

Other research reports trace the relationship between Executive Outcomes and the Botswana government as far back as the relationship between the Botswana government and the South African National Intelligence Services (NIS) towards the end of Apartheid”.

A SADC research report published in the distant past claims that there are “suggestions of covert collaborations between Botswana authorities, Debswana and the South African National Intelligence Services (NIS) towards the end of Apartheid”.

The report that was compiled by Bench Mark Foundation five years ago claimed that is why Executive Outcomes, founder Eeben Barlow was contracted to design Debswana security training manuals, to conduct training and give advice for De Beers and Debswana security personnel.

Barlow’s connections with the DeBeers diamond cartel allegedly helped expedite the start-up of Executive Outcomes. Barlow worked for DeBeers in the late ’80s and early ’90s, handling DeBeers’ corporate counterintelligence. He was also contracted to establish and train a covert group for the De Beers diamond company in Botswana, Debswana, with the aim of infiltrating and penetrating the illegal diamond-buying and smuggling syndicates.

Investigations into a Hong Kong bank account in the name Executive Outcome /Sandline Holdings turned up the signature of Barlow along side than of Simon Mann who was arrested for participating in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea in exchange for oil concessions a few years ago.

Another former member of Executive Outcomes claimed that President Ian Khama had links with Military Technology Services (MTS), a mercenary outfit that was allegedly engaged to train Botswana’s Special Forces.

Revealing how MTS boss Nigel Morgan allegedly sold out Simon Mann, leading to the failure of the planned coup in Equatorial Guinea, the unnamed mercenary told the media that MTS enjoyed a good relationship with Botswana’s Ian Khama, at the time he was the Minister of Defence, and helped train Botswana’s Special Forces.

The instructors were all members of Executive Outcomes. The mercenary is further quoted saying, “There was no doubt that British intelligence and the British government were aware of this military arrangement with a mercenary force.” The Debswana contract with Barlow allegedly came to an end when Executive Outcomes was contracted by the MPLA government in Angola to fight against UNITA in 1993. With funding from the Angolan state oil company, Simon Mann spearheaded a very dangerous operation with Barlow’s Executive Outcomes using only a few MiG helicopters and a few dozen black African expat mercenaries, which would be transported by ship. Mann and Barlow eventually defeated the UNITA. Soon after, Mann and Barlow were given another contract by the dos Santos government to deal directly with UNITA forces, and by 1994 the company “dramatically tilted the balance of the conflict”. By November 2004, the two warring sides signed the Lusaka Protocol, temporarily ending the conflict in Angola.

According to the report, the Debswana contract with Barlow was terminated because De Beers saw the relationship between Barlow and the MPLA government “as a threat to its illicit trade in conflict diamonds” with UNITA. The Botswana government has in the past denied the relationship between Khama and the mercenaries.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.