Elsewhere in this publication, we feature an extensive report on the efforts being made through newly-enacted legislation and pressure on the financial services sector to remove the country’s global grey-listing for money laundering.
The new Financial Intelligence Act, which kicked in on September 4, is indeed a comprehensive endeavour to lift the country to international best practice in terms of Anti-Money Laundering/Combatting Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).
The new Act replaces its loophole-ridden predecessor, which was demonstrably ineffective as seen in the fact that almost no money laundering cases ever reached the courts or were successfully prosecuted in the years since its enactment in 2009.
This despite ample evidence of the country’s growing vulnerability to dirty money, as seen in the explosion of scandals, frequent adverse findings by review agencies and mounting illicit financial flows identified by other authorities.
The new Act is armed to the teeth with punitive clauses running into millions of Pula for non-compliance, including jail terms for errant officials/customers as well as licence revocation for delinquent entities.
As cumbersome as compliance with the new Act will be for institutions and customers alike, it is absolutely critical for the restoration of lustre to the country’s carefully curated investment climate, branding and ability to not only attract investment but to do business with the rest of the world.
Ultimately however, laws, fines and prisons are only as effective as the humans behind them; both the enforcers and those being watched over.
There is evidence of a growing “get rich quick” culture in the country, possibly emboldened by the fact that almost no money laundering cases or suspects have been brought to court or successfully prosecuted. The old Act provided the loopholes and a consumerist society, suffering from what Bank of Botswana governor, Moses Pelaelo calls “rising personal greed,” has increasingly dabbled in dirty money, turning the public purse inside out and robbing innocent Batswana.
Our youth are beginning to view corporate villains as heroes and public corruption scandals as heists. Add the networking and anonymity provided by social media, where forex scammers and others show off imaginary lives of filthy riches, and it is clear that the “get rich quick at all costs culture” has taken a hold in the country.
Fighting the scourge of dirty money, public corruption and callous personal greed will clearly take more than the new Financial Intelligence Act and its quiver of arrows.
The effort needs to start with leaders at all strata, from the community to the presidency, pushing back against this culture, walking the talk and holding corruption accountable.
Every adult Motswana needs to make a personal decision to return to the noble values of honesty and integrity that helped build this country and where there are failures, those charged with pursuing culprits and prosecuting them should do so relentlessly.
We stand ready as a partner to tell the story and spread the fight against dirty money and public corruption.
"Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It's self-defence. It's patriotism."