Attorney Friday Leburu has been acquitted and discharged in a case in which he was accused of removing evidence contrary to section 119 as read with 33 of the Penal Code.
Leburu was said to have, on or about June 13, 2016, at Gaborone, knowing that an Aston Martin vintage car of registration number ADL 1968, black in colour, may be required as evidence in a judicial proceeding, with intent thereby to prevent it from being used in evidence, removed it from Botswana to South Africa.
The car belonged to his client one Farai Mangobe, who was being investigated for fraud and money laundering but had allegedly fled to South Africa.
It is said that while Mangobe was in South Africa, Leburu removed the vehicle from Botswana and delivered it to him, although he was aware that the vehicle was allegedly acquired through proceeds of crime.
In his recent ruling, South Regional Magistrate Masilo Mathaka acquitted the accused on the basis that it was doubtful that he was told or knew that the vehicle was a subject of investigation.
Mathaka stated that a careful scrutiny of the evidence reveals that there were contradictions within the prosecution’s case, which were not resolved during trial and which were also difficult for the court to resolve.
He said the Investigating Officer (IO) Jako Hubona and landlady (where the car was parked) Neo Oageng’s evidence contradicted each other in that he said he had told her the vehicle was a subject of investigation and should not be taken away while the landlady said she was only told the vehicle should not be removed.
Mathaka said Hubona’s credibility in the matter was suspect in that his witness accused him of adding some content in her extra curial statement, which she never told him.
According to him (Mathaka), it appeared that the IO in an endeavour to make his case watertight embellished evidence.
“The revelations by his witness, Oageng lead to such conclusion. She first denied being told about the vehicle being subject of investigations.
She then revealed that the IO added some content in her curial statement, which she never told him. I must say, with due respect, that the Investigating Officer, fared poorly as a witness,” he said.
Mathaka observed that the IO had the propensity to alter evidence, which is a serious dent on his credibility.
He also said the way the vehicle was handled made it difficult to even presume that the accused knew that it was marked for investigations.
“The procedure for preservation of items which are likely to afford evidence in criminal proceedings are common knowledge and the IO with his vast experience is presumed to know that procedure.
However, he did not take action for a period of over a month in ensuring the preservation of this item,” he added.
In conclusion, he said the IO could either have seized the vehicle or caused the detention of it in the custody of whoever he deemed suitable for such through the acceptable legal method.