It is now a year and four months since the National Petroleum Fund scandal shook the nation, but despite the tumultuous developments in the case, the likely masterminds and key decision-makers in the saga are still at large and fears are that the pinnacle of the trial will be reached in their absence, TEFO PHEAGE & LAWRENCE SERETSE write.
State investigators told the nation a year ago that they anticipated bringing additional suspects to book in relation to the NPF trial, and those turned out to be the Kebonang brothers in December.
Those facing trial now include High Court Judge Zein Kebonang, former Minister Sadique Kebonang, former Energy director Kenneth Kerekang, businessman Bakang Seretse, his relative Mogomotsi Seretse, Kago Stimela, Khulaco (Pty) Ltd, Basis Points and M & B Properties (Pty) Ltd which are represented by Bakang Seretse in his capacity as their Director.
The most crucial question in the current events is where are the key decision makers who were involved in the transactions and will they ever be held accountable?
Bakang Seretse’s lawyer, Kgosi Ngakaagae has already accused the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) of lacking integrity by side stepping the ‘real dealers’ of the alleged loot. He claims that his clients are scapegoats while prominent “co-conspirators” are walking free.
But who and where are other role players?
The former spy chief, Kgosi and DIS are at the centre of a deal amounting to P230 million that was intended for the construction of fuel storage tanks but ended up in Israel and other countries in a case of suspected money laundering.
At the beginning of the investigations, the former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang, told the Parliamentary accounts committee that he approved the variation of the funds from the NPF because he was told that national security was at stake by Kgosi.
Kgosi was allegedly to be a star witness for the state against the co-accused Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang. Kgosi had earlier on deposited an affidavit on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on a related matter where the state was forfeiting assets belonging to Bakang.
In the affidavit Kgosi denies knowledge of Khulaco, Bakang and Leburu. Khulaco is the company at the centre of the NPF P230 million payment to the Israeli Company. It was later proved otherwise as documents showed that to the contrary, the DIS officially appointed Khulaco and provided all necessary documentation for Bakang and Leburu. This was further supported by a contract between Dignia Systems and Office of the President that Kgosi knew the company and its owners. Legal minds also question the possibility of the DIS boss not knowing Khulaco and its owners when his organisation vets companies it conducts business with as national security protocol.
DCEC was expected to add Kgosi to the list of defendants who are facing money laundering charges following the emergence of vital evidence in August that former Kgori Capital and Khulaco Managing Director Bakang Seretse and his co-accused acted on the instruction of the former DIS boss.
Mordechi Bareshi, the Vice President of Dignia Systems deposed an affidavit before the DCEC last year stating that Isaac Kgosi had written a letter informing them that the DIS had tasked Khulaco (Pty) Ltd to pay Dignia Systems on behalf of the Botswana government. The letter written by Kgosi to Dignia Systems has been passed to the DCEC and is expected to form supporting evidence against the former DIS boss.
Dignia Services vice president further revealed that the letter written by Kgosi stating that Khulaco Management Services had been appointed by the government of Botswana to manage its assets was demanded by their Israeli bank before they could approve such transfer of funds.
It has also emerged that at the time Kgosi asked for money from the Petroleum Fund, allegedly to build Petroleum Storage facilities, he was already in talks with Dignia Services to procure intelligence equipment from them.
Kgosi instructed Khulaco to make the payment to Dignia in Israel and has not been charged along with the individuals he gave the instruction to.
Dr. Obolokile Obakeng
The acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security, is said to have authorised the variation at the request of the DIS.
High Court Judge Godfrey Radijeng had also stated in his judgment in December that, “the applicant averred that the P230 million disbursement to a Khulaco (Pty) Ltd account at Capital Bank was not approved by the NPF Management Committee, did not follow established procedure for disbursements, there was no tender for the project, and one Kenneth Kerekang alone purported to approve the request by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) on same date (7th August 2017) the request was made by DIS.”
In April last year Obakeng told the PAC that former Energy Affairs director, Kenneth Kerekang had allegedly opened an account at Bank Gaborone without being authorised by his superiors and deposited a sum of P60 million.
The PAC heard that if such an account (held with Bank Gaborone) was legitimate, it should have been sanctioned by the committee that supervises the activities of the NPF. The Chairman of the Committee is the Permanent Secretary in the same ministry.
Obakeng also informed PAC that Kgori Capital, a company in which businessman Bakang Seretse was founder and managing director of, had been paid P31 million by the ministry for an online system to track payments by oil companies towards the NPF.
He said due process was not followed to engage Kgori for the procurement describing it as anomalous.
Obakeng said after his suspicion were confirmed that there were some irregularities in the way the funds from NPF were used, he instructed an internal auditor who indeed confirmed his fears that there were ‘abnormalities.’
Obakeng told the PAC that Kebonang placed considerable pressure on him to approve Kgosi’s request to change the purpose for which his department had taken P230 million from the NPF the previous August.
According to Ngakaagae, Seretse’s lawyer, the money was properly released in all the transactions that involved his clients as transactions were made with the best knowledge of the ministry. Obakeng was at the time the accounting officer of the Ministry.
Obakeng who was Kerekang’s supervisor is not facing any charges despite admittance of approval of the funds variations.
What did the Presidents know?
According to the paper trail, payment to Masisi’s campaign was made on April 6, 2017 when a sum of P300,010 was credited to Briscoe Attorneys.
This amount was included in the purchase price paid to Sadique for the sale of his property in Phakalane.
In his letter to Briscoe Attorneys, Seretse gave instructions on how the attorneys must disburse the amounts relating to the P3.3 million in the attorney’s trust account. In a hand delivered letter the following day to attorney Daphne Briscoe, Seretse said: “I refer to my deposit of P3,300,010 into your trust account. I authorise you to immediately pay the sum of P3,000,000 to Mr Sadique Kebonang (or his nominee) for the sale of shares in Bee a Bee (Pty) Ltd.
The balance of P300,010 must be paid to His Honour, The Vice President Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi towards his election campaign as a donation from myself. The instruction as to how the money should be distributed shall come from Mr Masisi himself”
The next payment received by Masisi was P2 million also from Bakang Seretse after the Tonota BDP elective congress. The money was also paid directly as a gift to his file at Briscoe Attorneys. Masisi’s donation is one of those included as a charge against the Kebonang twins but in a curious turn of events the President is not facing any charges in this regard.
Masisi has given the DCEC a statement distancing himself from the P2 million donation still with Briscoe Attorneys.
Ngakaagae threatens to subpoena those sidestepped by DCEC
Ngakaage has warned that he will drag those sidestepped by DCEC to court through subpoenas to answer for their roles in the scandal. He argues that there is no way his client-a non government employee could have had access to all he is accused of without authorisation, assistance and knowledge of government authorities.
According to Ngakaagae, dispensation of funds to acquire such military hardware by the DIS would have been known to the Office of the President, the Permanent Secretary to the President, the parent ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Ministry where the NPF is housed, its permanent secretary and possibly the Botswana Defence Force.
He said Eric Molale’s former ministry of Presidential Affairs oversees the DIS and the administration of the OP, and approval of the NPF expense would have been issued from there.
“We will summon former president Ian Khama to testify for his role as well as Carter Morupisi and Molale. We will summon Kgosi if he is not charged by then as well as Masisi and many others linked to this scandal. We have damning evidence against all these people and we are going to embarrass the DCEC before the nation and courts for leaving all these figures out of the case despite being key players in the matter,” he said.
The DCEC said that investigations are still ongoing and has remained tight lipped about questions raised stating that the matter is before the courts.