'Lawyers abuse funds held in Trust accounts' -MPs
New law to improve regulation, accountability
For all his perceived arrogance and aloofness Leader of Opposition who is also the President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate Duma Boko proved his legal prowess when debating the Trust Property Bill making other legislators eat from the palm of his hand.
Earlier when debating the motion most MPs supported the bill but painted a bad picture about abuse of trust accounts and foundation properties saying some people are using them for wrong reasons. Although most MPs debated the bill, it was clear when Boko rose to debate that most of them started to grasp the intent of the bill and its importance. He became the MPs go-to guy as he dissected the bill lecturing to MPs how they missed the basic elementary issues when debating the bill. “Let me begin by clarifying certain things that seem to confuse many of our members here, but which are so elementary that sometimes it confounds the most basic understanding why they confuse themselves unnecessarily,” rumbled Boko, pressing his thumb firmly into the middle joint on his index finger, curling them into his palm.
He told MPs that the new law does not in any serious way alter the position as it exists now and has existed before. Earlier in the debate MP for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaingwa had thrown Parliament into fits of laughter when he claimed that the Bill is inspired by the Holy Spirit. “In my constituency this law will help greatly. I am being challenged for 2019 by people with loads of money. I wonder where they got the money from. Mr. Speaker according to reliable sources the funds are part of the reason why there is infighting in some political party,” he said, without mentioning any names. He said according to his prophetic spirits, some of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) money ended up in some trust accounts and foundations.
Boko did not take kindly to Nkaingwa's utterances, and chided him saying trusts accounts of law firms are audited by professional auditors and that the audit process is overseen by the Law Society of Botswana. “Your prayers and your supplications to your demon gods that certain individuals must appear in the list of non compliant practitioners have not yielded results,” he hit out as he extend his closed hand towards the Speaker, with Nkaingwa giggling at the onslaught.
Coming to the bill, Boko encouraged all MPs to have trust accounts which are more relaxed legal vehicles that can enable them to secure themselves and their property. “The specific example I want to give, if you have movable and immovable property owing and fully paid, it is important to secure that property because when they attach, they will attach even property that does not owe because it belongs to you,” he explained as MPs listened attentively with palms on their cheeks, clearly captivated by the delivery.
With Property Trusts there will be no attachment because the property now belongs to the trust and one becomes the beneficiary of the trust, he explained as MPs microphones started to switch to red seeking clarification. “I would yield to the request for clarification from Honorable Moyo Guma. I am educating these folks Madam. I need to take my time,” said Boko enjoying every moment of his mesmerising performance to a converted audience, opening up his arms like a Pentecostal preacher to emphasise his points.
Guma who seemed to have seen the light asked if there is transfer duty when he transfers his property into a trust and Boko answered in positive. To drive his point home, Boko gave them example of former De Beers Chairman, the late Harry Frederick Oppenheimer who at the time of demise only had R53,000 in his personal account yet he was the richest man in South Africa at the time. “The rest of the properties were protected in trusts. The smartest richest people understand these basic principles. So you folks must have trusts, encourage your constituents to have trusts because it is important to do so,” Boko preached.
Boko who is also a Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North deposited that one aspect of the bill which he doesn’t agree with is the involvement of the Master of the High Court which he said it totally unnecessary.
“When you burden the Master of the High Court with more work, the office of the Master, which is dealing with so many matters are presently remain, and you add to that suite of responsibilities. You are overburdening the Master and is unnecessary,” he reasoned adding that the Master deals with you when you become administrator of somebody’s estate when they have passed away.
He informed parliamentarians who had earlier debated saying trust are used for money laundering that trusts are good and if properly regulated and concluded that he supports the bill fully with the removal of the Master of the High Court from the bill.
Presenting the Trust Property bill, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi urged legislators to support it because it is necessary to close the gap since currently there is no statute regulating the control of trust property in Botswana. Consequently there is minimal vetting and control of trusts and foundations, and to continue on the same trajectory provides a fertile ground for illegal activities and crimes such as money laundering to thrive.
Kgathi said although most trusts and foundations were set up for noble causes, research by the financial organisations such as Financial Action Task Force (FATF) uncovered that corporate vehicles such as trusts could and are often used intentionally for money laundering and terrorist financing activities. This, he said, is the more reason there is a need for registration and regulation of trusts and similar entities to subject them to accountability and transparency.
Several MPs on either side of the aisle also supported the Bill expressing concern that trusts and foundations lack accountability and could be easily used to finance criminal activities. They concurred that the Bill will restore the integrity of trusts and ensure that funds held in such accounts are used for purposes for which they were intended. Others complained about trusts accounts managed by law firms, which they claim impoverish Batswana as they are often embezzled without any punitive action to the offending lawyer, save for revocation of a practicing license.