Monday, September 28, 2020

Debswana violated US congress laws with impunity ÔÇô report

When Debswana sponsored United States (US) Congressman William Jefferson and his family for a number of trips to Botswana, the joint venture company between De Beers and the Government of Botswana knew that it was violating American congress laws ÔÇô the Control Risk Group report has revealed.

The report states that the payments for a number of Jefferson’s trips to Botswana with his family “appear to be in breach of both standard Debswana policy and US congress guidelines”.

“Indeed, the department must have been aware of this risk of breach of US Congress guidelines as a staff member had marked up the relevant passage in the congress guidelines.”

The US congressional rules prohibit US Congressmen from taking trips with their family where payment is provided by a third party.

The report states that Debswana is “unable to explain the business rationale or to accurately quantify the spending of what appears to be a number of social visits by a US Congressman and his family, which was hosted by a Debswana executive”.

Curiously, the report omits to mention that President Festus Mogae and his family benefited from the P1, 3 million which was spent on Jefferson’s numerous visits. Mogae and his family are just lumped under “others”.

De Beers, in one of its internal memos, is worried that the fact that the use of the Diamond for Development Funds was used in Congressman Jefferson’s visits may undermine Mogae’s “credibility as a goodwill ambassador for Debswana diamonds and his image as the face of good governance. There is also the chance that some of Botswana’s friends may become aware of these allegations and question the credibility of the Office of the President in future”, stated the internal report.

There are also fears that Botswana government officials may have entered into questionable deals with the convicted US congressman for educational technology and satellite transmission contracts in exchange for support for Botswana during the “diamond for development” controversy.

Congressman Jefferson, who was the voice of Botswana in the United States Congress during the ”blood diamond” controversy, was convicted last year of using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.

During the eight-week trial, prosecutors outlined numerous alleged schemes ÔÇö educational technology in Botswana, oil rights in Sao Tome, cable television boxes and sugar and oil plants in Nigeria, telecommunications deals in Ghana and “biospheres” in Equatorial Guinea and other parts of Africa that, at $7 million apiece, would turn trash into energy. It emerged that among business ventures that Jefferson sought involved satellite transmission contracts in Botswana.

Noah Samara, Ethiopian born CEO of WorldSpace, which brought satellite radio to parts of Asia and Africa, testified during the trial that in 2002, he told Jefferson about a trip he was planning to Africa to promote a satellite education program he had already sold to Nigeria and wanted to spread across the continent. Jefferson said that if he would add Botswana to his itinerary and pay Jefferson’s expenses, Jefferson would join him in Botswana and arrange meetings with top officials, at which he could pitch his education plan.

Jefferson said he had other business to conduct, including seeing whether the president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, would accept the same Congressional Black Caucus award Samara had received in 2001. Samara agreed to Jefferson’s plan.

In the same year, former president Mogae received the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Weekend Chair’s Award.


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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.