As DPP fails to charge him, again!
Fear, loathe or love him, Isaac Kgosi, has once more been served a survival dish – miraculously staying out of facing charges when other new names were added to the charge sheet in the on-going National Petroleum Fund (NPF) case where P250m was looted.
Observers have not missed the gapping omission and are now reading more into the developments, with some suspecting that he will now be turned into a state witness against some of the accused persons. Such speculation is fuelled by Count 2 in the charge sheet, where particulars of the offence suggest that Accused number one, Kenneth Kerekang, had lied and misled Kgosi which led to the latter diverting funds from the NPF to purchase spy equipment fromsuppliers in Israel.
Others read more political machinations into the unfolding NPF saga, with the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi – seemingly scared of the damage Kgosi would do was he to be hauled before open court to defend himself. With Kgosi also being a loyalist to Khama, he is seen as the man who could ultimately reconcile the two with that prospect eliminated completely were he to be charged.
Some – based on the claim before court that he was lied to – are questioning his competence that resulted with him being fooled. The revelation, contained in a new charge sheet for the NPF case presented before court on Thursday, shows that Kgosi may have been deliberately targeted as the head of the best resourced and most sophisticated security agency in Botswana. Or is it? On August 2017, Kerekang, then the Director of the Department of Energy in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources -then headed by Sadique Kebonang as Minister- gave false information to Kgosi, claiming that Khulaco (Pty) Ltd had been contracted to manage NPF. The motive was to cause Kgosi to work with Khulaco in the disbursement of funds to DIS suppliers, which the spy chief bought hook, line and sinker. The biggest question on many lips before Broadhurst Regional magistrate court on Thursday morning was; How did the head of DISS accept and act on false documents involving millions of state funds without verifying them? Just how did it escape a whole DISS head to conduct a routine security check on the request from Kerekang, if indeed he was not part of the deal?
The answers to the many questions and details of what transpired will be laid bare when the trial of the NPF scandal gets underway in 2019. In fact, Kerekang’s lawyer Kgosi Ngakaagae has in the past called on the prosecution to charge Kgosi for his involvement in the NPF money laundering scandal. To date, the state has ignored the suggestion without explaining the glaring omission.
Despite the P250 million at stake in the NPF case, and the associated cost of investigations and litigation that will collectively easily exceed a million pula, accused persons -if eventually convicted- only face imprisonment not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding P25 000. The soft sentences, which do not reflect the extent and gravity of the offence, have angered some sections of public who feel that the punishment is a mockery of justice, cannot serve as a deterrent and is at best a pat on the back for sophisticated criminals. To add insult to injury, some opine that the net should be cast wider to catch bigger fish outside and inside Government enclave who benefitted from the proceeds of the NPF looting. The truism to the concerns expressed is currently playing itself out in the NPF money laundering scandal, where even if the accused persons are convicted their brief incarceration and fine pale into oblivion in comparison to the multi-million pula loot involved. The six accused persons, together with their companies -also charged for their involvement in the transactions- will still smile all the way to the bank when all is said and done.
In fact the smiles have never left their faces. No nerves! No anxiety or fear about impending joal on their faces! In fact, opulence is always on display at every court session when the accused arrive in top of the range SUVs, wearing designer suits and expensive colognes. All the accused persons smiled as they walked out of Broadhurst Regional Magistrate courtroom 1&2 on Thursday afternoon, chatting to hordes of their supporters, hangers-on and rumour mongers after court agreed to have their bail conditions relaxed. But the biggest smile was worn by the only woman among the accused, Botho Leburu, the former Director of Basis Points Capital after the state dropped money laundering charges against her. Her lawyer, Joao Carlos Salbany escorted her out before court orderlies took turns reading out a long list of 65 criminal charges to the rest of the accused among them Bakang Seretse, his brother Mogomotsi and their companies, Member of Parliament for Lobatse Sadique Kebonang and his twin brother High Court judge Dr Zein Kebonang, and one Kago Stimela and his company.
In addition to the Directorate on Corruption and Ecomnomic Crime (DCEC) being ordered to give their travel documents back, the accused will no longer be expected to report exclusively to Gaborone West police station every week. They can now report to any police station of their choice once a month starting in January 2019. Even then, they will not have to report their whereabouts in the month of December 2018 and any other month in which they would have appeared before court. The concessions were sought by Ngakaagae and acceded to by the state.
After granting the orders, Magistrate Chris Gabanagae cautioned the legal teams not to cause any further delays, and to move the case to trial in reasonable time due to immense public interest in the case. However, that may not come to pass after defense lawyers informed court on Thursday that they will be filing papers on Friday (November 07) seeking clarity on some particulars of the case in connection with their clients. The state is expected to respond before the parties return to court in February. Gabanagae’s warning against delays triggered defense attorney Unoda Mack to jump at the opportunity to throw a potshot at state prosecutors. In not so many words Mack stopped short of accusing state prosecutors of being the main cause of delays, due to failure and/ or negligence to comply with court orders within stipulated time. “Thank you for making that observation your honour. I am happy that you touched on the issue and I hope my learned friends on the other side note that concern, that we stick to the set time lines,” said Mack glancing over, stepping ever closer to Wesson Manchwe to echo the same message, just to make sure it was understood loud and clear.
Veteran lawyer, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Wesson Manchwe is leading the prosecution in the matter defended by his former colleague Kgosi Ngakaagae who represents Seretse and Kerekang, while seasoned criminal lawyer Unoda Mack represents the Kebonang brothers.
On February 18, 2019 the parties will meet again in court to confirm progress in the matter in preparation for trial. The accused a facing charges ranging from theft, uttering a false document, giving false information to a person employed in the public service, abuse of office to money laundering involving millions of pula.