AfriForum has been briefed by the director of public prosecutions in Botswana to represent it in a high-profile money-laundering and fraud case involving huge sums of cash allegedly funnelled into South African bank accounts.
AfriForum will help by facilitating a request by the Botswana government for mutual legal assistance from SA in the Bank of Botswana fraud and money-laundering probe.
Botswana’s director of public prosecutions, advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi, submitted a request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) on September 25 2019 to the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco).
The head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, Gerrie Nel, said there had been no response to this request. Nel said on Tuesday the brief from the DPP was to facilitate any request or development related to a request for mutual legal assistance in the matter.
Nel said money originating from the Bank of Botswana was illegally laundered through various international accounts, and US$48m (about R828m at Tuesday’s exchange rate) found its way into various accounts in SA.
He said an investigation by authorities in Botswana focused on the question of how, and how much, money found its way back to Botswana and for what purposes.
“It is quite embarrassing, but this particular request was personally handed over by the head of the international co-operation unit in the [Botswana’s DPP office] to the designated officials at Dirco on September 9 2019.
“That MLA seems to have disappeared. The lack of feedback from South African authorities led our clients to form the irresistible inference that the delay or unwillingness [to assist] is quite deliberate,” Nel said.
He said the request for mutual legal assistance identified suspects including high-profile and politically connected individuals in SA.
“An MLA is merely that. It is a request to assist foreign law enforcement to obtain evidence needed to prove a criminal matter in their country,” Nel said.
Nel said after being briefed, AfriForum sent a letter to the director-general of Dirco on Monday.
In the letter, AfriForum wanted to know about the status of the MLA and when a response could be expected.
Nel said AfriForum had received a response from Dirco, acknowledging receipt of the letter.
Tiroyakgosi said authorities in Botswana were looking at pursuing large sums of money that investigations revealed had found their way to SA.
“We need to get information from several banks in SA. Essentially we have been snowballed because the banks have not come to the party.”
Tiroyakgosi said: “We engaged with the team led by advocate Nel to try to find ways and means, through various avenues, be it persuasion, be it court proceedings to ensure that we get the necessary assistance from all concerned parties. That is the nature of how we got to engage Nel.”