How Chinese criminals escape justice in Botswana

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Lack of an extradition treaty and an agreement on bi-lateral investigations is hampering Botswana's efforts to crack crimes involving Chinese nationals. This is despite the fact that the notable presence of the estimated 20,000-strong Chinese in Botswana and the fact that government splashes billions (estimated at P7 billion last year) on Chinese companies.

"There is no extradition Treaty between Botswana and China. Botswana and China have no arrangement that provides for either of them to carry out investigations into suspected activity of corruption in the others jurisdiction," said a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Public Relations Department to a Mmegi questionnaire.  In addition, the two countries do not have any binding anti-corruption agreement or information exchange, something that is a stumbling block to the work of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) and Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)."There is no bilateral agreement that binds the two countries on exchange of information on individuals suspected of having committed corruption. The only existing framework is an International Convention on Corruption Prevention which the countries are signatory to. However, Botswana has not yet domesticated the Convention so it is not applicable," the response said. The revelations come a month after Parliament adopted a report of the special select committee investigating the Palapye Fengyue Glass Project. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) cannot do anything despite the recommendations that it should try some individuals for mismanagement of public funds on the controversial project. "We are still waiting for a docket from the DCEC," said a response from DPP this week.

However, insiders at DPP say they have hit a brick wall in trying to get information from Chinese government and private institutions such as banks, regarding the company that was in partnership with BDC in the Palapye Fengyue Glass Project. It has also been found that piles of documents are written in Mandarin, making it difficult for DPP officers to understand. "For instance, the pile of documents that are a crucial part of evidence for the DPP to prosecute are written in Mandarin. In addition, when you make a telephone call to China to make an inquiry, it is impossible to get assistance. So the DPP is stuck," a source said.DPP officers claim they are waiting for information from the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) before they act on the Fengyue matter. However, the DCEC has disputed the claim. "I can confirm that we have passed some dockets to the DPP regarding the Palapye Glass Project," said DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He would not disclose the content of the docket but he stated that it was in connection with some individuals involved in the project. Meanwhile, the DCEC has started a programme that allows its investigators to learn Chinese (Mandarin). So far two of officers have come back after language training in China. The University of Botswana is also offering studies in Mandarin. "Funds permitting, we intend to train as many officers as possible in other languages like Portugeese, French, Spanish and others," Motshoganetsi said.

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