Tens of investors who were hoping to cash in on the Maun tourism boom are finding themselves stuck with fake title deeds with no land to show for their investment.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has uncovered a huge scam in Maun where a syndicate, comprising land board officials and fraudsters, is selling fake land title deeds to unsuspecting investors.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that the DCEC office in Maun is investigating close to 20 such cases. Other cases relating to the Maun land scam are being handled by the Francistown and Gaborone offices.
Maun, which is the gateway to one of the best wildlife experiences in the world, the Okavango Delta, has become a thriving tourist town. Almost all tourists entering the Okavango Delta do so through Maun, situated at the gateway to the Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. The Botswana Tourism Board describes the eclectic village as the tourism capital of Botswana and “the headquarters of countless safari and air-charter operations whose signs and offices dot almost every intersection, particularly towards the airport.”
Land here is sought after and has become a happy hunting ground for fraudsters.
The story of the phony land deals came to light when some investors showed up with genuine looking title deeds bearing the land board letter head but with no land to go with the deeds. It is understood that, in some cases, land board officials have been giving out a “sucker list” of land board applicants to fraudsters. After the land applicants have fallen for the smooth talking, seemingly plausible patter of the land fraudsters offering them commercial land at the sought after tourism hub, the land board official then prepare title deeds made out on the land board letter head and writing font. In other cases, the fraudsters make a cold call on prospective investors and sell them the dream of a piece of land on the gateway to the Okavango. Once they have ensnared their victim, they then liaise with their contact inside the land board to prepare the fake title deed.
The Maun land scam syndicate is understood to be operating from Gaborone, Francistown and Maun and DCEC officers in the three areas are all snowed under by reports of the phony deals.
So far no arrests have been made.