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Noose tightens around troubled CMB neck

STAFF WRITER
Molefe
Former judge, Peter Collins’ probe into the whereabouts of at least P177 million presently unaccounted for by troubled asset manager, Capital Management Botswana (CMB), has kicked into high gear, with reports that State security agencies could make their move next week.

Mmegi has learnt that while the State agencies, who have been probing CMB for at least six months, are eagerly tracking Collins’ probe, their own investigations could result in charges being preferred as early as next week.

The agencies, which include the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), are also reportedly on stand-by to help Collins “have access” in areas where tracing the funds requires State muscle.

Already, the DCEC has seized vehicles belonging to CMB on suspicion that they were purchased with the proceeds of crime.

A three-member Court of Appeal (CoA) bench last Friday ruled in favour of the bid by the Non-Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) to appoint Collins as statutory manager over CMB. The asset manager handled up to P477 million of funds belonging to the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) and another P133 million from Bona Life insurance firm. Both entities filed complaints against CMB claiming the asset manager could not account for their funds and was stonewalling efforts to recover them.

Of the assets invested by BPOPF, at least P200 million is known to be recoverable, with another P20 million known to have been loaned out to Cell City. CMB paid BPOPF another P50 million, which it said were proceeds from the disposal of the pension fund’s interest in the P477 million venture.

In total P177 million is unaccounted for on the BPOPF side, while the P133 million invested from Bona Life is reportedly in assets directly in CMB or its directors’ names.

Yesterday, Collins told Mmegi he was fully in control

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at CMB.

“I’m in completely and have been since the judgement, Friday 27, July,” he said, declining to shed more light on his work thus far. While the statutory manager was tight-lipped, Mmegi is informed there is a push to liquidate CMB, a move viewed as a simpler method of disentangling the asset manager’s web of subsidiaries, directorships and dealings, to recover the funds, with minimum liability.

Briefing journalists on Wednesday, BPOPF CEO, Boitumelo Molefe speculated that liquidation was a possibility.

“It could be that this process ends in some form of liquidation but after that, we need to look at a proper enquiry on how this matter happened and look at whether we are likely to recover assets,” she said.

Lawyer Gabriel Kanjabanga, who represented CMB and its director Rapula Okaile, told Mmegi that similar information had been received.

“The suspicion and information we have received is that there’s a plan to liquidate CMB in order to get a foothold in our client’s indirect ownership of Bona Life,” he said.

The BPOPF on Wednesday met with Collins and other parties in the matter, reportedly to map out the next steps in the probe.

Meanwhile, CMB employees are reportedly itching to cooperate with Collins in his enquiry, an eagerness reportedly fuelled by the months they allegedly went without pay  leading up to Friday’s judgement.

By law, Collins’ appointment as statutory manager means he takes over CMB “to the exclusion of its directors” and essentially represents sole authority at the troubled firm. Collins is due to submit a report to NBFIRA on his findings and progress before month-end.



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