By Prince Kurupati
Barely a month after Transparency International released its corruption index which places Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa, Botswana finds itself deeply embroiled in a massive corruption, abuse of office, and money laundering scheme that implicates most high ranking government officials including the President, Ian Khama.
The allegations of corruption and money laundering surfaced late last year but it’s only in the past couple of weeks that new evidence has emerged pointing to an intriguing and highly sophisticated money laundering scheme involving some of Botswana’s top ranking government officials.
At the forefront of the investigations is Dr. Abraham Sethibe, the Director of the country’s financial spy agency, the Financial Intelligence Agency. Dr. Sethibe has been the face of the investigations after Capital Bank detected a suspicious transaction of P250 million (US $25 Million).
The suspicious transaction detected by Capitol Bank involved funds from the National Petroleum Funds which were meant for the construction of fuel storage tanks for the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS). The funds never reached their intended destination.
While investigating the passage of the funds, Dr. Sethibe uncovered a myriad of links and other criminal activities including murder. As the mastermind and main player in all the illegal dealings in the money laundering scheme are Bakong Seretse, a financial advisor to the government of Botswana and also the Asset Manager for Basis Points Capital.
A report from Dr. Sethibe states that Bakong Seretse entered into a business partnership with a South African national going by the name, Vusi Mhlanzi. Bakong Seretse became an Asset Manager for Mhlanzi’s firm, Basis Points Capital. After some time since the two had signed an agreement, there was a mysterious bank account opened for Basis Points Capital without the approval or knowledge of Vusi Mhlanzi. It is this mysterious bank account that was to be used in money laundering activities by Bakong Seretse.
Financial records show that over P250 million was transferred from the National Petroleum Fund account to the mysterious account. From the mysterious bank account, the money in batches also found its way to the bank accounts of several top-ranking politicians in Botswana while at the same time, other batches found their way to South Africa, Italy and the UK where the money was used in acquiring real estate properties.
It is the conviction of Dr. Sethibe that Bakong Seretse was the handler of the mysterious account something indirectly substantiated by Seretse’s lawyer, Kgosietsile Ngakagae who said that part of the money went to President Khama who subsequently used it to buy himself a caravan and build a house. Ngakagae, however, did not disclose the exact amount of money purportedly given to the President.
Dr. Sethibe’s report also states that sometime after the mysterious account was opened, Vusi Mhlanzi through Hope Tawengwa, Basis Points Capital’s financial director became aware of the mysterious account. On occasions, Mhlanzi demanded that Tawengwa, sometimes in strongly worded emails question Bakong Seretse on details surrounding the account (Mail & Guardian South Africa is in possession of some of the emails). Tawengwa, however, failed to get anything from Bakong Seretse. On 29 August 2017, R2 million was deposited into an unspecified FNB Account (in South Africa) from the mysterious bank account. 0n 31 August 2017, two days after the deposit and a day before Mhlanzi’s planned trip to Botswana to talk with Bakong Seretse over the mysterious bank account, Vusi Mhlanzi was gunned down in cold blood while on his way home from work.
Though not charged with the murder as of yet, Bakong Seretse is considered by many to be behind Mhlanzi’s murder as the murder has all the hallmarks of a hit. The motive is definitely there as Bakong Seretse probably wanted to silence the only man who could connect all the dots and provide vital information that would implicate Bakong as the mastermind and architect of the money laundering scheme.
The state has already pressed charges for Bakong Seretse for money laundering, he together with Kenneth Kerekong, the chief executive of Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority and Botho Leburu, the former managing director of Basis Points Capital are the three to have appeared before the courts of law to answer charges of money laundering and corruption. All three were granted bail on their first hearing of P30 000 and are expected back in court later this month.
Besides President Ian Khama, the Vice President of Botswana, Mokgwetsi Masisi is also said to have benefited about P3 million (US $300 000) from Seretse’s money laundering scheme. However, to the defence of both the President and the Vice President has been the ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which through statements from Treasurer, Satar Dada and Secretary-General Mpho Balopi distanced the government from any wrongdoing.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) in Johannesburg said they are working hard to bring to book the culprits responsible for Vusi Mhlanzi’s murder. Tulani Mhlanzi, the Mhlanzi family spokesperson, however, said they have not heard from SAPS since the murder over 6 months ago. Though not acknowledging if Bakong Seretse has been touted as a possible suspect, SAPS stated that if need be they would engage any other police service in a different country if it’s proved that someone beyond the country’s borders was behind the murder.
The money laundering scheme is the biggest corruption case that Botswana has had to deal with since independence.