Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Media takes heat as DISS tries to hide dealings with criminal underworld

The recent attack on Botswana Gazette by security agents is part of a pattern by government to hide the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) secret dealings with the international criminal underworld ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.

The Jerry Chitube affair, far from being an isolated incident harks back on the recent attack on the Mmegi newspaper and the Sunday Standard for exposing the DISS dealings with Israeli-Serbian questionable businessman Vladimir Cizelj. In both cases, government tried to hide the DISS dealings with characters linked to the international criminal underworld.

Google Vladimir Cizelj, and the internet search engine mentions the name in the same breath with phrases such as “bribery” “bankrupsy mafia” and “suitcase affair” While the internet presents a man with a chequered past, the government of Botswana on the other hand describes Vladimir Cizelj the man behind Vlatacom as, “an innocent service provider of international repute.”

In a response to an article written by Mmegi newspaper, government issued a press statement stating: “From our perspective Vlatacom and its managing director, Vladimir Cizelj, have consistently shown themselves to be both highly professional and above board in their dealings with this government.” Now will the real Vladimir Cizeij stand up? The man who financed DISS Director General, Isaac Kgosi’s purchase of a farm in Sentlhane was implicated in a bribery scandal believed to have contributed to the fall of the Serbian government.

Vladimir was accused of bribing Dejan Simi?, former deputy governor of the National Bank of Serbia (NBS), and Vladimir Zagra?anin of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Simi? was arrested in January 2006 on suspicion of having received a bribe of EUR 100,000 in his Belgrade apartment, while Zagra?anin is suspected of helping give the bribe. Vladimir was the man with the briefcase in the case that came to be known as the “briefcase affair.“ Although the accused in the case where set free by the Serbian court, there was a hue and cry in Serbia about a miscarrage of justice which is believed to have contributed to the fall of the Serbian government.

Vladimir is understood to have been delivering the briefcase for former Director of the Kreditno-Eksportna Bank (KEB) Sekula Pjev?evi?, who was later indicted as one of the leaders of a criminal group known as the “bankruptcy mafia,” whose members were indicted of financial fraud worth millions of euros. Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in 2000 tried to do a background check on Vladimir Cizeij whom they code-named Mr V. In one detailed statement that has been passed to the Sunday Standard, a BDF informer states that, Vladimir Cizeij, “made it clear to me in our initial meetings that he was very well connected with the Israeli defence Industry, which of course was of great interest.”

Another letter dated 10th July 2000 relayed information to the BDF that the Israeli Ministry of Defence, SIBAT stated that, “they are not able to tell us classified information but they are willing to confirm that Mr V is known to them; his company is known to them; Mr V has no security clearance and Mr V is therefore not permitted to represent any company or product in our line of business.”

Although the Israeli Ministry of Defence stopped short of denouncing Vladimir, documents passed to the Sunday Standard reveal that a local lawyer who was engaged as a convayencer by Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General, Isaac kgosi for the controversial plot at Sentlhane farms told the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime that the spy chief informed him that he was buying the plot on behalf of the Israeli Secret Service which was planning to set up a sleeper cell in Botswana.

The Sunday Standard paper trail has revealed that Israeli “briefcase man” and Botswana honorary consulate in Israel Vladimir Cizeij made a SWIFT transfer of P687, 000 into the Collins Newman & Co trust account with Barclays Bank for the purchase of Sentlhane farm on 3rd August 2009. The paper however could not establish any link between Vladimir Cizeij and the Israeli Secret Service. Vladimir, and his company Vlatacom have also been at the centre of controversies for Millions of Pula worth of business he received from the Serbian Ministry of internal Affairs through secret tenders. The Serbian State Audit institution raised queries about a number of tenders signed with Vlatacom.

In some instances, Vlatacom was given 70% advance payment within 10 days after the contract was signed. Although Chitube, like Vladimir rubbed shoulders with the country’s leaders and the DISS, he did not have Vladimir’s gravitas and could easily be disposed off. Media reports reveal that the DISS helped Chitube acquire two fake Botswana identity cards although he was not a Botswana citizen. Chitube is also reported to have been involved in a multi-million Pula diamond deal involving the DISS. ÔÇô READ INDEPTH FOR DETAILS

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