The tax agency and the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) raided the offices of Corporate Services Ltd yesterday, seeking possible connections to deals involving high profile individuals implicated in the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal.
The raid which went on for several hours was expected to produce documents and data that would help the Directorate of Prosecution meet their court deadline of November 29th in the NPF corruption case for completing its investigations. The Botswana Gazette has been unable to determine what documents or evidence were removed by BURS and DCEC personnel.
Corporate employees at Gaborone International Finance Park, where the office of the secretarial service company owned by John Barry Little is located, witnessed security agents in official vehicles demanding access into the building in an effort to collect information that could help them trace shareholders agreements, company profiles and shareholdings. John Barry Little came into the spotlight in 2013 during the DCEC investigation against former spy boss Isaac Kgosi’s corruption allegations.
The global investigation by ICIJ into 2.6 terabytes of leaked data that became known as the Panama Papers revealed how the wealthy and powerful use shell companies to hide their assets. The Transcript of Kgosi’s interview by DCEC investigator Don Mckenzie revealed that Kgosi used shelf companies for clandestine security operations, a claim subsequently admitted to by Kgosi almost 7 years later before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at hearings investigating the maladministration of the NPF.
In a sheaf of documents contained in the docket referenced DOC/IF/2011/001166 (27) opened by DCEC, Kgosi refers to John Barry Little as his company secretary. In a statement made by Choppies directors to the DCEC, Barry Little was also referred to as an accountant for a company owned by Kgosi which was at the centre of the financial investigation.
According to the statement in June 2012, Kgosi received P 28,333.00 from RBV (Pty) Ltd which according to Choppies CEO Ramachandran Ottapath was a dividend payment from the company. The two other directors of RBV, however did not receive any dividend payment and according to Ottapath, “on that occasion I instructed Mr Little, the accountant for Choppies Enterprises Limited and the accountant for Silver Shadows that no payment for Mr Ismail or myself should be made on account of the small size of the dividend payment.” Silver Shadows is a briefcase company with no employees or physical office but only existed on paper and used as a front company for Kgosi’s deals when he still a public servant.
In September 2011 Choppies owners issued Kgosi with 3 999 990 shares at P1 a share. In 2014 before Kgosi disposed of his stake in Choppies, Sunday Standard reported that the shares were then worth approximately P17 million.
Investigations by The Botswana Gazette reveal that John Barry Little through his company Corporate Services has a successful business and provides secretarial and accountancy services for a list of high-profile business people and politicians.
Barry Little was not available for comment at the time of press, but this publication can confirm that he was present and cooperative during the raid at his offices.
Graft busters at DCEC, Botswana Unified Revenues Services (BURS) and the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) involved in the investigations into Kgosi, his allies and some individuals implicated in the NPF scandal are fearful for their lives and have demanded security upgrades, sources claim. In 2014 Former DCEC director Rose Seretse and her team which was probing Kgosi’s infamous case DOC/IF/2011/001166 (27) pushed back against threats by DIS agents and accused Kgosi, through a savingram, of spying on her agents. She accused DIS agents of threatening DCEC assistant Director, Eugene Wasetso. The previous Director General of the DCEC Rose Seretse had been forced to provide her personnel additional security after they were harassed by Kgosi’s security agents. Seretse in subsequent radio interviews recanted from her written correspondence on the threats made by Kgosi to DCEC staff. Seretse offered no explanation for her written communication to Kgosi demanding that he desist from harassing her staff.
Government officials have revealed to this publication that only management level is offered security as stipulated in their work contracts, and that junior officers are left largely exposed to the vulnerabilities of character of those being investigated.
BURS Commissioner Ken Morris said that he was not aware of any officers under threat but stated that security is provided on a case to case basis and whenever there is need.
FIA Director General said that his office did not need any upgrade in security for its officers and that FIA was reliant on privately outsourced security engaged to protect the organisation and its members.