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CMB’s Marsland fights back against extradition

MBONGENI MGUNI
The DCEC has been leading investogations into the pension fund millions PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Capital Management Botswana’s (CMB) majority owner, Tim Marsland continues to fight against his extradition to Botswana, where authorities want answers on the suspected misappropriation of about P500 million belonging to the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF).

This week, various sources close to the matter told BusinessWeek that Marsland and his lawyers are due to appear again in a Pretoria court for the continuation of an extradition hearing that began on Monday.

Marsland was reportedly taken into custody from his home on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning by South African law enforcement, acting on a complaint laid by the pension fund and the local Directorate on Public Prosecutions (DPP).

It is understood Marsland’s arrest comes after months of investigation by the Hawks, South African police and South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit, which has allegedly frozen his bank accounts and begun the process of locking in his assets for possible seizure.

“The hearing returns for arguments on Friday where his lawyers are expected to keep trying to hold off extradition to Botswana,” a highly placed insider told BusinessWeek.

Of the funds allegedly owed to pensioners, at least P174.6 million, representing a stake in Wilderness Holdings, was handed back to the BPOPF last year during a period of CMB’s statutory management. Another P50 million invested by CMB in Cell City in June 2016 is also recoverable, sources say.

Should he be successfully brought back to Botswana, Marsland is due to answer questions on the whereabouts of the other millions, as well as account for a trail of suspicious transactions as reported by statutory manager, Peter Collins, in a report submitted to the Court of Appeal.

CMB, an asset management firm now under liquidation, was contracted by the BPOPF in 2014 to

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manage an initial P500 million investment mandate in private, unlisted equity. The asset manager and the pension fund fell out in late 2017 with allegations of misappropriation, at which point CMB had reportedly being given P477 million to manage.

The asset manager triggered a clause in the contract which it said allowed it to boot the BPOPF out of the deal, giving the pension fund only P50 million back for it (the BPOPF’s) interest in the deal.

The pension fund sued and lost, before the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, acting on BPOPF complaints, successfully placed CMB under statutory management via a Court of Appeal judgement last year.

Marsland has reportedly stayed out of Botswana since the pension fund saga exploded in late 2017. He has also skipped hearings with creditors, despite a subpoena being issued for his appearance.

According to South African law, extradition hearings are not about guilt or innocence, but rather the requisitioning party putting forward sufficient evidence to remove a citizen to a foreign state.

Marsland’s defence is allegedly that all the funds in question are traceable and that he has no case to answer in Botswana.

CMB executives have said they are the victims of “character assassination, defamation, fraud, negligence, and cover up after cover up after cover up,” perpetuated by “some of Botswana’s most powerful executives,” in an effort to “prevent the exposure of wholesale negligence”.

By South African law, the Justice Minister has the final say on whether extradition can occur.

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