Saturday, November 26, 2022

High noon in Seretse’s corruption trial

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) charge of conflict of interest against assistant Minister of Finance, Vincent Seretse will tomorrow (Monday) collapse or stand on the strength of the information presented by the prosecution that the accused minister had an interest in Serala PTY (Ltd).

The crunch moment in the corruption case comes sooner than anticipated after presiding magistrate, Oahile Mokibe, asked the state to inform the court about the nature of interest that Seretse allegedly failed to disclose.

The state in its charge of conflict of interest against Seretse, states that the minister while still Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation failed to disclose his interest in Serala PTY (Ltd) when the corporation awarded a tender to the company.

The prosecution tried to argue that the nature of Seretse’s interest in Serala PTY (Ltd) was part of the evidence to be led during the trial, the magistrate however pointed out that the charge can only exist if the state shows the court what kind of interest the Minister had in the company.

The prosecution had indicated during the first appearance that they were unable to provide the defence with documents relating to the case.

In another development that suggests sloppiness in the way the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) drafted the charge sheet against Seretse and the other accused trio; Paul Paledi, Berndt Guston Astrom and Serala (Pty) Ltd, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leonard Sechele has been advised by the court to amend the particulars of the offence after the prosecution failed to state in the charge sheet that the Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) is a public body.

The court is also expected to be briefed about the second accused Paul Paledi who fell sick after being served with charges. Sechele has informed the court that they will not apply for a warrant of arrest against Paledi because of his ill health.

Seretse, (55-year old) former Botswana Telecommunications (BTC) boss is facing two counts of corruption. He is accused of abusing office when he was BTC’s Chief Executive Officer in 2008 and of taking part in awarding a tender to a company called Serala (Pty) Ltd which he had interests in.

The count alleges that on or about 14th February, 2008, in Gaborone, whilst a BTC employee and whilst a referee to Serala (Pty) Ltd, with which BTC proposed to deal with, Seretse failed to disclose the nature of his interest in that company and knowingly participated in the proceedings of the BTC Board relating to the awarding of tender to Serala (Pty) Ltd.

The charge sheet further states that on 5th March of the same year, Seretse who was still the BTC CEO, abused the authority of his office, knowingly and without lawful authority when he allegedly directed Moatshe Lebekwe and Berndt Astrom to recruit eight of BTC employees to offer their services to Serala (Pty) Ltd. The recruits included Berndt Astrom, Moatshe Lebekwe, Gabalemogwe Rankgate, Oiketlile Setema, Bareng Gaadingwe, Keone Mpodi, Yunnes Salim Moyo and Segopotso Lebele.

The Director of the company in question, Serala (Pty) Ltd, Paul Paledi was summoned before the Magistrate to answer allegations of giving false information to a Public servant.

Paledi is expected to appear as second accused and third accused in this matter, as he has to also answer for charges leveled against his company.

He is said to have told an evaluation team leader that in fact it was his company, which recruited BTC employees.

The fourth accused is Bernt Guston Astrom who is alleged to have doubled as BTC Project Manager and a Project Coordinator for Serala between 5th and 8th of March 2007.

The Directorate of Public Prosecution maintains that Astrom was acting knowingly and without lawful authority when he engaged in “an act, which was prejudicial to the rights and interests of BTC.”

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