Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Inside Marsland’s shady deals

A former partner in Capital Management Botswana (CMB) has revealed how Tim Marsland was eager to make money by hook or crook “and obsessed with taking as much money off the table for himself as possible”

Rhys David Carr who is a state witness in the CMB case has deposed an affidavit detailing how Marsland who was clueless about private equity and corporate finance was given millions of pensioners money to invest.

In his sworn statement, the brains behind the CMB tender takes the court into the CMB heady days where deals were made with questionable “characters” and millions thrown after bad investments. In his words, Marsland “brought one insane investment opportunity after another.”

Carr stopped short of equating the decision by Botswana Public Officers Pension (BPOPF) to entrust Marsland and Rapula Okaile with millions of Pula in pensioners money to giving a blind crew an airplane to fly.

Giving a background leading to the alleged misappropriation of funds by CMB directors, Carr said during 2013, BPOPF put out a tender for the establishment and management of a private equity fund.

Marsland pursued the tender and recruited several “characters” to assist him. Marsland had been friendly with Mr. “Chexs” Lekalake for some time and he now sought Lekalake’s assistance in winning the tender. Lekalake had in the past introduced Marsland to a Zimbabwean national who was living in Botswana, Siqo Mphoko whose father [and former ambassador to Botswana, Phelekezela Mphoko] was the Vice President of Zimbabwe at the time.”

“Marsland developed a strange relationship with Mphoko, which I never quite understood. He supported Mphoko financially and unofficially employed Mphoko.  Marsland believed that Mphoko, with his contacts in Botswana, Mozambique (Mphoko spent many years in Mozambique when his father was the Zimbabwean ambassador to Mozambique) and with his father being the Vice President of Zimbabwe would be useful for his future plans.”

“Mphoko introduced Marsland to a certain Mr. Olebeng (I forgot his surname). Olebeng was useful to Marsland as a company that Olebeng was shareholder, Novare Botswana (PTY) Ltd had been appointed as the asset consultant to the BPOPF.”

Olebeng then introduced Marsland to Rapula Okaile who at the time was the Chairman of the BPOPF and private secretary to former Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi.

With Mphoko, Olebeng, Lekalake and Okaile Marsland had assembled his team that would assist in winning the tender.

During 2014, while Marsland was pursuing the tender, Carr who was still employed by CMB was engaged by 3G Mobile in South Africa as a consultant.

“Marsland needed me because I was the only person who had equity and corporate finance skills and experience. Marsland had no skills in in private equity and corporate finance at all and to my certain knowledge had never completed a successful transaction in this arena.

“Marsland also needed me to put together all the tender documents because again he had no skill, knowledge or expertise in this field.”

Carr states: “with my experience and skill in private equity and corporate finance and with Marsland and his team, CMB won the tender and after I negotiated the contract with Mr. Moemedi Malindah of the BPOPF the contract was signed by BPOPF in November 2014.”

In terms of the tender a new partnership would be established, the Botswana Opportunities Partnership. This would be the private equity vehicle that would be used to make investments and the vehicle that the BPOPF would invest its P500 million, which I believe was increased to P88 000 million.

Carr explained that Marsland insisted on employing Okaile as CMB chief executive officer, appointing him director and giving him a 10 percent shareholding in the company.

“All of this for a man who had absolutely no private sector skills more specifically no private equity, corporate finance or financial skills. While I couldn’t block Okaile’s appointment as CEO I refused to issue him with shares or have him appointed to the board. This was the start of the problems with Marsland and in fact it was of the reasons he used to get rid of me in December 2015.He was obsessed with taking as much money off the table for himself as possible.”

In his affidavit, Carr details Marsland’s “insane” investment plans.

Among them was “building a water pipeline from the Delta to supply Gaborone with water. Again, he anticipated huge financial gain for himself. In this venture he used a certain Minister and a local stockbroker, Mr Martin Makgatlhe who also sat on the BOP Investment Committee) to try and facilitate this deal.”

Another investment was to buy power from Zimbabwe to sell to Botswana “as he (Marsland) anticipated that he would be able to make US$80 million Dollars for himself.”

“I was opposed to both deals as they made no sense either from a transactional or financial perspective. Notwithstanding my resistance, Marsland, Okaile and Mphoko pursued these deals relentlessly. Thankfully without success.”

Then came the first big fight between Marsland and Carr over the purchase of Bona Life by the BOP.

“I fought against this transaction hard and Marsland fought harder to effect it. It was important for Marsland because his stated aim, amongst others was to own an insurance company and an asset management company. To this day I don’t know how it was done but Marsland with the assistance of Okaile and Malindah was able to get the go ahead from the BPOPF do the deal. I was totally against every aspect of the deal as I believed that the business of Bona Life was not sustainable and I did not agree with how Maasland had structured the deal which included a fraudulent guarantee that he solicited.” 

Marsland then brought several other deals all equally unsuitable, Carr revealed. “He wanted the BOP to acquire a stake in Wilderness Safaris. While in principle a good company I believed that the purchase of shares in Wilderness fell outside of the BOP’s mandate as it was a listed company and BOP was prohibited from buying shares in Wilderness and deal was facilitated by Makgatlhe’s stock broking company notwithstanding the fact that Makgatlhe sat on the BOP investment committee.” 

“I believe however that Marsland put the shares in his own name rather in the name of the BOP as would have been required. There was an airline that Marsland wanted to invest in that I blocked. Marsland also wanted to buy into a media group. He was obsessed with owning the media as he believed that this would allow him to control the agenda. I blocked this too.”

Carr further revealed: “I had also been blocking Marsland from stealing P120 million from Bifm.”

Carr sold his shares in CMA to Marsland through an exchange for shares owned by CMA in a company called 3G Mobile Botswana.

“The value of exchange was heavily skewed in favour of Marsland, but I realized that if I remained part of CMA and CMB I would in all probability land up in jail. With my resignation, CMB and CMA immediately fell into default of the agreements with the BPOPF and the BOP as I was the key individual in terms of the contracts,” Carr said.

“My departure should have immediately been communicated to the BPOPF and a suitably qualified replacement should have been found and approved by the BPOPF, this was never done.”

He concluded: “So effectively upon my departure CMPB and CMA were in default and all subsequent acts by either of CMA or CMB were invalid.” 

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.