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Closing the net on cross-border fugitives

Publish date: 12 August 2019
Issue Number: 836
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Criminal

Several significant cross-border graft cases have highlighted the growing importance of authorities in different regions working together to boost the chances of securing successful convictions. Legalbrief reports that different laws and extradition treaties often delay the delivery of justice, but there have been several high-profile breakthroughs this year. They include Swiss authorities confiscating 25 luxury vehicles owned by Teodorin Obiang Nguema (the son of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema) in a major embezzlement case; the breakthrough for the return of $300m siphoned by the late dictator Sani Abacha (after a five-year legal wrangle, the funds have been recovered and will be split between Jersey, the US and Nigeria), and the National Assembly’s approval of the signing and ratification of an extradition treaty between SA and the UAE which could see the Gupta brothers brought to book for state capture allegations.

And several high-profile cases over the past week have served notice that the authorities in different countries are making significant progress. Mozambique has charged 20 people, including the son of former President Armando Guebuza, over a fraud scam in which state-owned companies contracted $2bn in debt for dubious projects. Legal action may follow against former Finance Minister Manuel Chang, whom Mozambican authorities as well as the US Justice Department want for his alleged role in approving government guarantees for foreign debt of $2bn in 2013-14. Chang, currently held in SA on US charges, is no longer immune from prosecution after he resigned as a lawmaker. Moneyweb reports that the accused include Armando Ndambi Guebuza, the former head of state security Gregorio Leao, and Antonio Carlos do Rosario, CEO of the three state companies for which the debt was contracted. Charges include corruption, money laundering, criminal association, possession of prohibited weapons, blackmail, abuse of office and the falsification of documents.

Full Moneyweb report

South African businessman Tim Marsland – accused of fleecing nearly R280m from the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund in a money-laundering scam which spanned the region – is facing extradition and nearly 500 years of imprisonment if found guilty, says a Sunday Times report. The businessman and former journalist, considered a fugitive by the Botswana Government, was arrested last month at OR Tambo International Airport while trying to board a flight to Germany. He was denied bail in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court on Thursday after spending three weeks in a Johannesburg jail. It is alleged Marsland, at the helm of investment firm Capital Management Botswana (CMB), was contracted to manage nearly R700m by the fund in 2016, with an agreement that the money would be bound for private equity investments in Botswana. But according to Botswana's Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Marsland and CMB co-director Rapula Okaile surreptitiously ‘misappropriated’ 200m pula (about R274m) to acquire assets in Botswana and SA, and for personal gain.

The businessman had applied for bail while fighting the extradition process, but Magistrate Sagra Subroyen insisted he had been ‘economical with the truth’ – misleading the court on material aspects of his financial affairs, notes the Sunday Times report. Using bank statements from his credit card and cheque account, Subroyen revealed how vast sums of money had passed through Marsland's hands, insisting it was clear that he was trying to drain his accounts with large deposits to unnamed individuals in an effort to establish a ‘nest egg’ while he was on the run. Advocate Charles Thompson, for Marsland, said given the urgent appeal of the bail ruling, it would be inopportune to weigh in on factual allegations. ‘We can state in so far as the impression is that Mr Marsland was fleeing SA, same is denied,’ he said. ‘He was en route to Germany for a business meeting, with a return flight booked to SA, with proof thereof having been provided to the satisfaction of the state.’

Full Sunday Times report (subscription needed)

In new details that a Business Day report says could potentially nail Markus Jooste for insider trading, court papers show that the former Steinhoff CEO advised his associate to sell the global retailer’s stock six days before the company revealed what later turned out to be a multibillion-rand fraud that sent its shares crashing. Jooste has been named in a report by PwC as the mastermind behind the fraud, and is being sued by both the company and associate Jaap du Toit. In an SMS sent to Du Toit at the end of November 2017, Jooste said: ‘Steinhoff is going to struggle to process all the bad news in America for a long time, so there are better places to invest your money, immediately take the current price and delete this SMS and don’t call anyone.’ It is unclear what ‘bad news’ he is referring to. The report notes the text message is the most solid evidence in the public domain of possible insider trading in the lead-up to the collapse of Steinhoff’s share price in December 2017, and is most likely to pile pressure on the Financial Sector Conduct Authority to finalise its investigation. ‘We are still investigating possible insider trading in the Steinhoff share. We anticipate to have completed a few of these investigations by the end of September 2019,’ the FSCA’s Brandon Topham reportedly told Business Day.

Full Business Day report (subscription needed)