Justice Godfrey Radijeng of the Gaborone High Court has reserved judgement on whether or not various frozen bank accounts belonging to businessman Bakang Seretse and his co-accused, should be unfrozen.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime were recently granted a restraining order by the High court to freeze Seretse’s various accounts while awaiting investigations into his landmark money laundering case.
Seretse and his co-accused, business partner Botho Leburu and Director of Energy Affairs Kenneth Kerekang were recently released on bail by a Gaborone Regional Magistrates court and are expected to be back in court for trial on January 25th.
This week the accused- through their attorney, Kgosietsile Ngakayagae, made an urgent application before Justice Radijeng seeking a reversal of the restraining order on their bank accounts and property.
According to court documents, Khulaco PTY (Ltd) a company owned by Seretse, has a balance of about P69 734, 260 in its account with Capital Bank, belonging to government.
The documents further indicate that over P118 million was transferred to a Security technology company in Israel by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security services (DIS).
Other FNB bank accounts belonging to Seretse’s company that are being probed by the DCEC, according to the court documents, have balances running into millions of Pula.
On Thursday all legal jargon was decoded as the State, represented by Ernest Mosate of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Ngakayagae representing the applicants battled to convince Justice Radijeng to rule in their favour over the restraining order.
Mosate wanted the P69 734, 260 in Khulaco’s possession to be returned to the government treasury as he argued that the company does not have any direct interest in the disbursement of the money. “All we seek is an order for the money to be paid over to government as its property. If we agree that the money belongs to the government and we have no problem releasing it, then why not let it go? We’ll deal with other issues later and demonstrate that the money is proceeds of crime,” he submitted.
For his part Ngakayagae said he did not have a problem with the P69 734, 260 in his client’s possession being returned to the fiscus.
He however said he had difficulty with the order as it would presuppose that the money is proceeds of a crime. “The overarching issue is that we have been put over the administration of a contract as Khulaco. In the event the court says the money was not proceeds of a crime and that it must go back to Khulaco for further administration and the money is now with government, that has the effect of undermining the very contract that we’re entrusted with.”
Ngakayagae further took a swipe at the DCEC as he said they targeted his clients as they were too scared to investigate the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DISS) Isaac Kgosi and Dr Obolokile Obakeng, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technologies and Energy Security for misappropriation of government funds.
The whole drama, according to Ngakayagae, started when DIS asked for funding from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) in order to expand strategic petroleum facilities across the country.
P250million was then approved by the Department of Energy and Isaac Kgosi is said to have then instructed its Director, Kenneth Kerekang, to make payment to Khulaco, and also provided the account number for the transactional services company owned by Bakang Seretse and Botho Leburu.
“Kerekang has been made the fall guy in this matter. Kgosi wrote to the ministry saying the expansion of the petroleum facilities was no longer a priority and that there were more pressing issues which included anti-poaching and human trafficking. He was writing to Dr Obakeng, the Permanent Secretary who approved the diversion of funds. Dr Obakeng who authorized the diversion has not been charged and neither has Isaac Kgosi. The DCEC are scared of Kgosi or they are just trying to conjure up a case out of nothing,” he said and added: “They aimed at Kerekang who is the small man at the bottom of the food chain”.
Ngakayagae said Kgosi instructed for the money to be issued to a company in Israel and that half of the money was paid. “Dr Obakeng then wrote that the money should be redirected to its original purpose, but by then it was already too late.
He dismissed the Money laundering charges against his clients arguing that there was sufficient paper trail stating how the money was disbursed.
“Isaac Kgosi can can launder P118millions and still receive praise from the Attorney General and the DPP. They say that 250million was stolen and that there was no government project. Where is any affidavit from a government official suggesting there was no government project,” he asked rhetorically and added: “This money laundering charge must fall away. Only the DCEC are weeping more than the bereaved”.
DPP’s Mosate maintained that the money should not have been disbursed no matter who said what.
He argued that there is also an issue of conflict of interest as Seretse is a shareholder, Director and signatory at Khulaco, Kgori Capital and Botswana Public Officers pension Fund where his company is a fund administrator. “Public funds were used for a wrong purpose under his watchful eye,” he submitted.
The case continues on January 12, 2018 when Justice Dijeng is expected to make a ruling on the matter.