Former President Ian Khama together with two of his co-accused Isaac Kgosi and South African businesswoman Bridget Motsepe look set to be exonerated from charges of money laundering. This may especially be so following the decision by the state to drop charges against fellow accused Wilhelmina ‘Butterfly’ Maswabi last week. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) lawyers last week dropped charges of financial terrorism against “Butterfly” citing lack of evidence. State prosecutor Priscilla Israel told a Gaborone Magistrates Court last Tuesday November 17, 2020 that they were having difficulties finding evidence from outside saying the State will need more time. Consequently, the prosecutor announced they were dropping a charge of financial terrorism against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) agent.
The decision to drop the charge, which involved alleged money laundering to bank accounts connected to former President Khama, Motsepe, and former DIS Director Kgosi could effectively indicate the state is pulling the plug on the protracted money laundering case against the four. They have all denied the charges in which they are alleged to have masterminded the biggest heist in the history of Botswana, allegedly stealing P100 billion from the reserve bank; A charge which has been denied by the Bank of Botswana Governor himself saying there was no money missing from the bank coffers. Butterfly now faces two counts and is expected to appear again later this month on November 26, 2020 for status hearing.
The DIS agent is now faced with two counts of being in possession of unexplained properties, and giving false information under oath. None of the remaining charges are linked to the trio of Khama, Motsepe, and Kgosi who have already instigated defamation claims against the Botswana government. Butterfly has also launched a defamation suit against the government over the matter. Attempts by the government to gather evidence in support of their claims have yielded no results with the DPP blaming the South African government of refusing to provide assistance. The engagement of the Afrikaans pressure group AfriForum to push for mutual legal assistance has also failed to bare fruits so far. One of the attorneys representing the accused quartet, Unoda Mack, has described the charges as absurd.
“The entire thing is reckless. You do not experiment with serious charges like financial terrorism. It’s a very serious offense with devastating consequences,” Mack has told Sunday Standard. “A genuine investigation aimed at discovering the truth and attaining justice should have started at Bank of Botswana. You don’t run all over the world searching for evidence leaving the source of the alleged funds at home. Totally ridiculous.” Mack says the government should stop dragging the matter any further and apologise to the nation and the accused persons. “It is time to tell the nation the truth. You don’t just simply wish something like this away. We are taking them head on.” Charges against the four are based on an affidavit filed by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) alleging that former President Khama, while still in office and with the help of former spy chief Kgosi, channeled in excess of USD10.1 billion (P100 billion) to various international and South African bank accounts some of which Motsepe and Butterfly were co-signatories. A forensic investigation by Omnia Strategy LLP, an international law firm founded by Cherrie Blair and engaged by Motsepe found that “…allegations of money laundering against former Botswana president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, and South African businesswoman and Ambassador to the Pan African Parliament, Bridgette Motsepe, were fabricated.”
The report also cited the BOB Governor’s statement that no such amounts have been stolen from the bank, to support their case. “It has been reported that the Governor of the Bank of Botswana, Mr Moses Dinekere Pelaelo, confirmed to Botswana’s Parliamentarians that the money never left the bank and that Botswana never had that amount of money in its accounts in the first place,” the report says. Most critically, the investigation found, there is no evidence that USD10.1 billion ever left the Bank of Botswana or entered international or South African bank accounts. “Furthermore, in relation to the alleged inflow into South Africa of part of this money in 2019, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has confirmed it ‘could not find any record of the (i) transaction referred to, (ii) the payment having been approved (cleared), either inbound or outbound, or (iii) of any cross-border flow of funds in the amount referred to, inbound or outbound from South Africa’,” the report said.