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Receiver decries lack of security

SELEBI-PHIKWE: It is important for Botswana to have the Pre-Proceeds and Instrument of Crime Act in place to avoid being blacklisted from transacting with other countries.

Speaking to the Selebi-Phikwe full council meeting this week, the Receiver under the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security Bafi Nlanda stated that the office was setup to manage anything forfeited from acts of crime to the State.  Nlanda stated to the councillors that many confiscated vehicles rot away as there was no office to both manage and sell them so that the proceeds could benefit the State. He added that confiscated property have been lying idle for so many years because making of disposal orders was not mandatory.

He added that no one was taking responsibility for property forfeited to the State and there was no civil forfeiture but criminal forfeitures only.

He further said that repealed Proceeds of Serious Crime Act did not resolve the issue of management of proceeds. He added that nobody took responsibility for proceeds forfeited to the State as such proceeds have piled in courtroom yards and storerooms while forfeited livestock disappeared. The Office of the Receiver that started in April this year is already in possession of court orders to seize and manage both movable and immovable property including plots, houses, buildings and money to the State.

However Nlanda said the challenge they experience is that his office is currently under-staffed yet they have court orders to execute.

“There are no officers to seize property and there are no warehouses to keep seized property. There are no officers knowledgeable in the management of property and no farms to keep seized cattle as well as no budget for feeding those cattle let alone for farm workers,” he said.   “The new Act now provides for forfeiture of such property and money raised through criminal means to benefit the State.

“The court is expected to make a special order upon the conclusion of the trial referring the property to the person entitled to it and if no order is made the property shall be returned to the person it was obtained from on application unless it was proven that that the property was not entitled to him,” he said.

He then noted that if no application is made after

three months the property vests on the State. Nlanda said if the offence was committed by use of weapons, or any instrument like a vehicle, the court might declare the property to be forfeited to the State.

He said the Office of the Receiver works hand in hand with all stakeholders in law enforcement such as Botswana Police Service and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, the latter having dedicated a money-laundering and financing of terrorism unit as well as Botswana Unified Revenue Services who enforce and administer revenue laws and taking measures to counteract tax fraud.

He also said his office has a good working relationship with the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) that detects and identifies any threat to national security and protects the security interests of the country.

The Receiver said the Financial Intelligence Agency is also a stakeholder pivotal in analysing financial information from reporting entities for suspicious transactions and cross-border deals.

“Our stakeholders have even offered to second some of their officers to the Office of the Receiver and we refer cases to each other where we feel the matter is better investigated by other agencies.

“We also have a common template used to collect and keep statistics and we are currently working on Memoranda of Agreements for better working relationships,” he said.  Some councillors remarked that the trend of proceeds of crime is also evident amongst politicians, therefore the Receiver must also target them so that money confiscated could benefit the country.

They also wondered how safe the Receiver is, as he has to deal with criminals on a daily basis.

Also, some wondered if the office is not duplicating what other law enforcement agencies were already doing. Nlanda said there is no security for them and cited that the Receivers are assassinated in other countries.

“We do not duplicate any institution we just manage confiscated property,” he said.

He also added that they value property at the time of seizure and keep the money in the account to accrue interest. He said they are currently in talks with BURS to use their warehouses for forfeited property.




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