Monday, September 21, 2020

Top cops in spy equipment tender corruption – claim

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is investigating reports that two senior police officers may have been bribed by an international IT company, in exchange of a tender to supply a hi-tech spying network that government is using to eavesdrop on cell phone and electronic mail conversations of all citizens without a search warrant ÔÇô The Botswana Police Service confirmed this week.

A Botswana Police Service Assistant Commissioner and a Superintendent, who were involved in the procurement of the multi-million Pula hi-tech spying network, are being investigated on suspicions that they received bribes from Duke S, the company that won the tender to supply the equipment.

The duo was assigned to go and view the equipment in Dubai and recommended to government to buy it. It, however, emerged after the equipment was delivered that it was second hand and not to the specifications required.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Kenny Kapinga, confirmed the investigations but could not disclose details saying the case was being handled by Deputy Commissioner Barupi.

The network, which has already been delivered, helps government reach into homes and businesses across the country, making government privy to what Batswana are thinking and to whom they are talking to.

Under the hi-tech spying network, the Botswana Police Service has, at its disposal, information concerning personal, business and political relationships and activities of local cell phone and electronic mail users.
The system is a totally covert operation and cannot be detected by cell phone providers (Mascom, Orange, Be Mobile) and their customers.

Although cell phone tapping by government agencies without a court order is illegal, the system gives the Botswana Police Service technology for blanket spying.

When Botswana Police Service first issued invitations to companies to tender for the supply of the equipment, the then Commissioner of Police, Edwin Batshu, told Sunday Standard that “life today is about crime intelligence led police. To be intelligence led, we certainly need the right equipment.”

He said lately Botswana is seeing a surge in crimes related to cell phones. He cited instances where criminals use cell phones to carry out the crime and instances where people are killed just for cell phones.

“We should be able to track cell phones stolen from murder victims.”

He said, at the moment, they are in the process of tracing and jamming stolen cell phones hoping that this would discourage criminality related to cell phones.
He allayed fears that the system could be abused saying, “We are putting in place measures to ensure that it is not abused. For now, we do not want to go as far as legislation.”

Batshu said the Director of CID would be charged with authorizing when the system can be used and when it should not be used. He argued that taking the decision to use the system from the hands of ordinary officers and entrusting it in the Director of CID should ensure that the system is not abused.

The system is able to intercept calls originating from outside the country, identify the caller, his location and friends who are in the company of the caller. The system works on both the Non Encrypted and Encrypted networks, completely independent of the Cellular Provider.

According to the tender specifications, the system:

* has one hundred (100)-channel rack mount base or mobile unit, to intercept 100 (one hundred) fully duplex cellular telephone conversations simultaneously.
* has in-built tracking system of targets location, with near GPS accuracy even when target is inside buildings.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.