Wednesday, September 27, 2023

TK foils DIS whitewash

Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama this week frustrated a government enclave elaborate smoke and mirrors scheme to conceal the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) alleged diamond and ivory smuggling rogue operation.

DIS Director General, Isaac Kgosi and Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi met with Tshekedi Khama at the Office of the President on Monday where they tried to persuade the minister to issue a rebuttal against the Sunday Standard story.

Tshekedi Khama’s rejoinder was to be the ultimate brushstroke in the carefully planned whitewashing of the DIS scandal and the closing gambit in a series of administrative ruses meant to throw Batswana off the spy agency’s alleged shenanigans. It is understood that Tshekedi Khama refused to play along, insisting that the story was factual.

Office of the President spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay would not comment of the meeting, saying he had just arrived from Kasane, “on a different mission.” Tshekedi could also not be reached for comment as his cellular phone was offline.

The meeting between Kgosi, Morupisi and Khama allegedly ended a chapter of manoeuvres to makeover the spy agency’s ivory-gate as a sting operation gone wrong.

Sources close to the plan told Sunday Standard that the biggest flaw in the charade was that the DIS could neither account nor provide a chain of custody for the ivory, which would be necessary to secure a conviction in a court of law.

As part of the plan, on Friday the DISS removed from its armoury at their Block three offices an ivory cache which had been stashed there for two years, and tried to register it with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Sunday Standard could not establish if the department agreed to register the ivory.

Sunday Standard Investigation have turned up a document marked “confidential” dated March 31 detailing the removal of the ivory stash from the DIS vault a day after the arrest of three DIS spies.

The document reads “I AIO Obusitswe Grace Matsapa of identity card number 961825905 who is assigned as Armourer at Grey House was on the 31st March 2017 instructed by the Commander STT Mr Mosinki to remove three (3) elephant tusks from the Armoury which I will be handing over to him. There is a long one and two short tusks in description. Mr Mosinki mentioned that the concerned tusks will be handed to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks due to the instruction he got from the Director General.”

The plan also allegedly involved co-opting a senior department of Wildlife officer to back the DIS sting operation cover story and corroborate their claim that they alerted the Department of Wildlife about the operation. The DIS claims that it had notified a senior Wildlife officer ÔÇô name withheld ÔÇô who is believed to be a DIS agent at the wildlife department. The officer, although among the department’s senior most three officials was not kept in the loop of the wildlife intelligence surveillance on DIS operatives because of his links to the DIS boss.

Sources close to the investigation told Sunday Standard that the foible in this version of events is that the officer never communicated the information to anyone at the ministry, even those in the operation’s tight circle of need to know. Attempts to get a comment from the officer drew a blank as he was reported to be out of the office on Friday.

The Wildlife Intelligence Unit arrested three DIS agents with a haul of sliced elephant tusks last Thursday following a long surveillance stake-out. The Wildlife Intelligence Unit mounted a roadblock at Makalamabedi where they lay in wait for the three agents:  Martin Disang Marumo a former Wildlife Officer from Tlokweng who was based in Maun, Oaitse Mokgatitswane a former police officer who testified in an assault case against one Tomagano Chabaesele in 2007 and Alex Lopang Mogojwa who joined the DIS from the civilian ranks. The trio was driving from Ngamiland to Gaborone.

The agents who were caught with a huge sports bag containing two sliced elephant tusks allegedly asked to be allowed to phone DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi, but were denied contact with their boss and were handed over to the Botswana Police Service.

Information gathered by the Wildlife Intelligence Unit suggests that the DIS has been smuggling ivory and diamonds out of the country in their Pilatus PC 12 aircraft as diplomatic cargo which enjoys immunity from search or seizure.

Diplomatic cargo is ferried across borders in diplomatic bags, also known as diplomatic pouches, which are containers with certain legal protections.

The physical concept of a “diplomatic bag” is flexible and can take many forms (e.g. a cardboard box, briefcase, duffel bag, large suitcase, crate or even a shipping container).

Additionally, a diplomatic bag usually has some form of lock and/or tamper-evident seal attached to it in order to deter interference by unauthorised third parties. 

The most important point is that as long as it is externally marked to show its status, the “bag” has diplomatic immunity from search or seizure, as codified in Article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It is often escorted by a diplomatic courier, who is similarly immune from arrest and detention. A diplomatic courier is an official who transports diplomatic bags as sanctioned under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

Couriers are granted diplomatic immunity and are thereby protected by the receiving state from arrest and detention when performing their work. Couriers may be assigned on an ad hoc basis, but in those cases they are released from immunity once their bags have been delivered.

According to the Wildlife Intelligence Unit, the contraband is airlifted in a DIS Pilatus PC 12 aircraft to Zambia where it is delivered to contacts in that country who then smuggle it through Tanzania’s Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar which are the principle exit points for vast quantities of ivory to the Asian markets. 

The Wildlife Intelligence unit has already alerted the Zambian intelligence to the ivory smuggling through Lusaka.


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