Saturday, October 23, 2021

Seretse’s NPF woes far from over

BY REUBEN PITSE & KHONANI ONTEBETSE

It never rains but pours for businessman Bakang Seretse.

Court records seen by the Sunday Standard have detailed how embattled businessman Bakang Seretse and former Director of Energy Kenneth Kerekang allegedly diverted P60 million from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) meant for procurement of Government Strategies Oil Stocks through Botswana Oil to the latter’s company, Basis Points Capital.

The DCEC also accuses Seretse’s former company, Afena Capital of diverting the contentious P60 million to Basis Points without authority.

The fresh allegations leveled against Seretse, Kerekang and Afena Capital are contained in a judgment delivered by High Judge Omphemetse Motumise dated 24 January this year.

Seretse and others had approached the High Court after the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) had seized their properties which the State claims were purchased through proceeds of crime (P60 million meant procurement of Government Strategies Oil Stocks through Botswana Oil).

Giving a background of the case, Motumise stated that the basis for alleging that the properties are proceeds of instrument of crime is to be found in the founding affidavit of the then Acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Wesson Manchwe.

The supporting affidavit of the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs and an anti corruption office with the DCEC forms part of the charges against Seretse and others.

Manchwe states in his affidavit that the Ministry through the National Petroleum Fund Committee decided to ring fence a portion of the National Petroleum Fund assets for reasons of asset protection of the funds. To ring-fence is a guarantee that funds allocated for a particular purpose will not be spent on anything else.

The documents state ring-fencing the fund would ensure their availability if and when they were needed for the projects for which they were set aside or committed.

Afena Capital (Pty) Ltd was then appointed to invest and manage the NPF funds with a long term outlook. Afena Capital was directed to ring-fence the sum of P150 million for the Tshele Hills project and at least another P150 million was to be ring-fenced for the expansion of the Francistown Fuel Depot.

According to the court records, by a letter dated March 2016 from Kerekang addressed to Afena Capital, the latter was given instructions to “open a bank account” in the names of National Petroleum Fund and transfer sixty million Pula (P60 000,000.00) for procurement of Government Strategic Oil stock through Botswana Oil.

On 31st March 2016, Kerekang instructed Bank Gaborone to open a back account in the name of the National Petroleum Fund.

Pursuant to such instructions, on 13 May 2016, Afena Capital transferred the sum of P60 million from its National Petroleum Fund account held with Stanbic Bank of Botswana to an account held with Bank Gaborone. The transaction was activated and authorised online on behalf of Afena Capital by its then officials; Sheila McHarg and Bakang Seretse.

Following the transfer of P60 million that was credited to the Bank Gaborone NPF account, a number of withdrawals were made from the account, the documents state.

The documents state that on the 29th July 2016 and at the instruction of Kerekang, P6,2 million was transferred to an account held by Recon Security Training (Pty) Ltd, trading as Basis Points Botswana account, which was opened on the 25 July with Capital Bank. The payment was described to the bank as “fees for various advisory services.”  

On 29 July, P10 million was again at the instruction of Kerekang paid to the Recon Account. The payment was described as an “advance for the procurement of oil stock.”

On 7th December, P43 million was transferred to the Recon Account by letter of the same date authored by Kerekang titled “close and withdraw dormant account.”

The purpose of the closure and withdrawal of the account was stated as being “due to the dormant nature of the account with our transaction advisor/investment manager, we have resolved to close and withdraw the National Petroleum Fund Account…”

Once the money was in the Recon Account (Basis Points), the DCEC states in court papers, it was allegedly used to purchase various properties.

The entire sum of P60 million, the DCEC says, was never used to buy oil stock for Botswana oil at all.

The money from Basis Points Account was used to various properties. On 2nd August 2016, a Meserati Ghibli S vehicle registered in the names of Seretse was purchased for the sum of P1,7 million and a Mercedes Benx V450 Bluetec registered in the name of Seretse was purchased for more than P800 thousand.

According to court records, Seretse through his company, M& B properties purchased a house valued at P3.6 million. A house in Extension 11 purchased by Basis Points a company in which Seretse and the late Vusumuzi Mlhazi are shareholders was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of 5.3 million. In 2017, Mhlanzi was shot dead in what was described by South African Police as a “hit”, but police say the motive is not yet known.

The court records show also that another house in Lobatse was bought for one Agodirwe Boikhutso Moahi at a cost of P1,7 million in Lobatse. According to the DCEC, Seretse also purchased a house for Kerekang and Mpho Kerekang on 26 April 2017 in Gaborone West for more than P6 million. Seretse has denied that he purchased a house for Kerekang.

A Toyota Lexus LX450 Diesel V8 at a cost of P1,2 million a Rollys Royce Phantom registered in names of Seretse for more than P2 million.

According to Motumise’s judgment, “It appears from available evidence that the amount of P60 million or indeed any portion thereof, was never used to purchase oil stock for Botswana Oil or any oil stock at all.”  

Instead, the judgment says, the money was diverted and used to finance the purchase of cited properties.

The DCEC contends such acquisitions involved serious crime related activities in that Kerekang of Afena or Basis Points had no authority to divert the money specifically set aside to buy oil stocks to properties in question for private individuals and companies which had no claim at all to the money.

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