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Botswana $10bn theft: Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe says new evidence exonerates her

2019-12-09 00:00

South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe has accused a Botswanan investigator of lying under oath when he implicated her in the alleged theft of more than $10 billion (R146 billion) from the diamond-rich country.

Motsepe-Radebe believes that new evidence exonerates her from wrongdoing.

According to an affidavit by Jako Hubona, an investigator in Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, Motsepe-Radebe was a co-signatory to two South African bank accounts that contained some of the stolen money.

But the banks – Nedbank and Absa – denied this. Letters from each bank – seen by City Press – state that the accounts cited in the investigator’s affidavit as being held with these banks are nonexistent or untraceable, according to the banks’ respective records.

Hubona’s credibility was also questioned after a Joburg-based forensic company found that emails admitted as evidence to support his affidavit appeared to be “fabricated and fraudulent”.

MOTSEPE-RADEBE IMPLICATED

City Press reported last month that Motsepe-Radebe was fingered as a co-signatory in at least two bank accounts holding some of the money allegedly stolen from the Botswana government to bankroll “terrorism”.

This emerged during a bail application of a former spy agent, Wilhelmina Maswabi, codenamed Butterfly.

Named as the one holding the purse strings to the loot, Maswabi is accused of money-laundering and financing terrorism in an ongoing case.

According to Hubona, Maswabi was found to have more than $390 million in her personal global accounts.

Hubona also said that she was found to have been transferring funds to former Botswanan spy chief Isaac Kgosi, who is currently being probed for threatening to overthrow the government.

Hubona claims that billions were stolen from the country, some of it allegedly on the instruction of former president Ian Khama, and stashed in offshore bank accounts.

Khama has since deposed to an affidavit denying the allegations.

In Hubona’s affidavit, he lists Motsepe-Radebe as one of the co-signatories on South African bank accounts owned by two companies: Blue Flies and Fire Flies.

Between them, the two hold 17 bank accounts outside Botswana.

WAS HUBONA TELLING LIES?

Maswabi’s case is ongoing, but her lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi, believes that the evidence recently presented in court raised doubts about Hubona’s evidence.

Ndadi went as far as suggesting that fraud was at play.

He told City Press last week that the fact that the state did not oppose Maswabi’s bail application, submitted two weeks ago, “meant that it accepts that it fabricated evidence”.

Ndadi said the evidence he had brought to court from the banks, along with the Joburg forensic report, was “unassailable” and that the state’s “not rebutting evidence makes it factual”.

The state had initially opposed Maswabi’s application for bail on the grounds of Hubona’s affidavit.

But on her second attempt, it said it would not oppose bail. This, after Ndadi brought evidence which he said exposed untruths by the Botswanan investigator.

An affidavit by Johan Benjamin Minnaar, a senior digital forensic analyst at Basileus Consilium Professional Services, confirms that he compiled a forensic report, attached as evidence for the court.

In the report, Minnaar wrote that he had “concluded that the emails appear to be fabricated and fraudulent”.

Meanwhile, a letter to Motsepe-Radebe from Nedbank reads as follows: “After conducting our search on our systems, we have been unable to find any accounts in the name of Blue Flies (Pty) Ltd/Fire Flies (Pty) Ltd/FireFlies (Pty) Ltd, nor any accounts with the account numbers mentioned above. It therefore follows that you cannot be, and are not, a signatory on such nonexistent accounts”.

In response to requests from Ndadi and Motsepe-Radebe, Absa wrote in its letter: “Absa has no record of any account with designated number ... The document provided under cover of your letter, headed Business Client Agreement and marked in manuscript as ‘L’, does not appear to be an Absa-generated document.”

Both letters from the banks were shared with City Press by Motsepe-Radebe.

MOTSEPE-RADEBE REACTS

“The banks are unable to trace any of the bank accounts I am alleged to be a co-signatory to. An agreement I have allegedly signed as a co-signatory with one of the banks appears not to be authentic,” Motsepe-Radebe said.

“So many questions could have been raised from the beginning on how Absa and Nedbank would have been allowed to hold stolen money. Did the man who was under oath in that affidavit mean that the Reserve Bank Governor of Botswana was caught napping on duty when he allowed so much money, stolen money, to leave the country? And are they saying our Reserve Bank in South Africa also allowed stolen money in the country? ... I don’t think so.”

Referring to Maswabi’s case, in which she has been implicated, Motsepe-Radebe said it reminded her of “what apartheid did to incriminate innocent people in South Africa”.

“I pray that this ridiculousness and unfairness stop in Botswana, which holds a good record of being ethical,” she added.

Motsepe-Radebe has denied any links with the case, but is no stranger to controversy in matters related to Botswana.

In April, the government slapped her with visa restrictions after allegations surfaced that she was meddling in its politics by funding regime change and working with those opposed to President Mokgweetsi Masisi – including Khama – to oust him.

“They have changed their tune and now say that I am funding terrorism. What is the motive of a country’s intelligence agency in identifying citizens, individuals and, in this case, me and coming with lies that cannot be verified?” she asked.

“I am clearly one of the people targeted and victimised for black propaganda, espionage, black budget funds and counter-intelligence.”


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January 26 2020