Authorities in Botswana have restrained a South Africa-based Malawian billionaire from accessing his US$8.8 million, accusing him of stashing the cash into his car boot and smuggling it into the country.
The Malawian billionaire Simbi Phiri who owns Khato Civils Ltd is being accused of money laundering after he deposited the money into one of his company’s accounts held by Stanbic Bank Botswana without declaring it at the borders.
Malawi24 understand that on a number of occasions Phiri withdrew millions of Rands from his South African bank account, went to Forex World – a foreign exchange bureau in South Africa – to convert the money into US Dollars, and then smuggled the cash wads into Botswana through a number of border gates before depositing the money with Stanbic Bank Botswana.
A total of US$8,886,000 was deposited into one of Khato Civils (PTY) Ltd’s account held by Stanbic Bank Botswana.
Meanwhile, a court in Botswana has since found that Phiri had not declared the money with both the South African Revenue Service and the South African Reserve Bank before taking it into Botswana.
Botswana Court of Appeal’s Justice Isaac Lesetedi said Phiri’s explanation that his understanding was that such clearance or declaration was not a requirement was insufficient. He added that the businessman’s conduct was questionable.
“That unexplained conduct would create a reasonable suspicion in the mind of any investigator of the money being proceeds of serious crime especially coupled with non-declaration of the export of the money from its country of origin,” said Lesetedi.
He further said that the conduct was also inconsistent with Phiri praising himself as a well-established businessman with pristine reputation.
“An above board transaction would have involved a direct transfer of funds through modern electronic means without the managing director (Phiri) putting himself in the risk of carrying such lumps of cash not only once but several times between borders, at one instance using a faraway and remote border post – Martins Drift.” added Justice Lesetedi.
The court records reveal that on July 26, 2015, Phiri entered Botswana and declared $300,000 at the border and that the next day he deposited into his personal account an amount of $5000. On July 8 he deposited an amount of $800,000 and R120,000 into his personal Rand account.
According to investigators in Botswana, they applied for the restraining after noting that Phiri’s conduct is an offence contrary to sections 14 and 95 of the Customs and Excise Duty Act.
They further summarised that an offence under Section 47 of the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act had been or were being committed hence the application for a restraining order.
Meanwhile, an investigating team from Botswana was scheduled to visit South Africa to meet with some commercial banks and the country’s reserve bank as part of the ongoing investigations.
Stanbic Bank Botswana is also being investigated by authorities in Botswana for “being used as an instrument to further the commission of financial crimes as being the channels and mediums through which the monies are being laundered.