Mercenaries smuggle P3 billion through Botswana

SHARE   |   Thursday, 02 July 2020   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Mercenaries smuggle P3 billion through Botswana

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) could have seriously compromised Botswana's national security, allowing for the country to be used by mercenaries in a clandestine operation, The Patriot on Sunday has learned.

The DIS is said to have missed an intelligence tip off in 2017, which alerted them to the use of Botswana as a launching pad by private military contractors (PMCs) commonly known as mercenaries, contracted to go and help the Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter in his all-out assault against the Tripoli government. In a clandestine operation that Botswana intelligence agents failed to intercept and expose, three Super Puma helicopters, strapped to vans/ trucks were cleared by authorities to pass through Botswana believed to be headed to Libya, last year.

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Information gathered and corroborated by highly placed sources has shown that since 2017, the funders of the Libyan project whose interest are in the oil  industry took advantage of the lapses in Botswana’s intelligence and financial services sector to transfer huge sums of funds, which were later taken out to be used to purchase military equipment elsewhere. Investigators have traced part of planning the assault on Tripoli by mercenaries hired to support Hifter in 2017, which however failed as it was later aborted, to Botswana where some financial instruments (MT760) of €300 million was transferred into a company account (known to this publication) using a local commercial  bank on the 30th November 2017. The financial instrument was from a bank in Geneva, Switzerland and sent to a local bank (name withheld) before the funds were cleared the same day.

Highly placed sources have revealed that the money was  used to purchase military equipment by the mercenaries  especially the three Super Puma helicopters and part of the money was for the payment of the mercenaries also known as soldiers of fortune who were to receive US$80 million.

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An Irish intelligence officer based in South Africa got wind of plans by the mercenaries to purchase some of the military equipment they needed for the operation in South Africa. He then alerted his counterparts. The well-executed plan was to clear the military equipment in Botswana, which according to highly placed sources was friendlier and more accommodating to the masterminds compared to other African states. “Due to the standoff between the current and previous administration efforts to tip off Botswana authorities proved to be a challenge. The information seems to have fallen into the wrong hands at that time,” a source opined.

Investigations by United Nations Investigators have since established that indeed six helicopters were flown from Botswana using falsified papers. The planned assault on Tripoli, Libya was aborted after Hifter questioned the quality of the helicopters. The six utility and support helicopters were to be used for assault and interdiction operations. Two of them were to be piloted by specialist pilots.

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According to international press, the team comprised team leader Steven Hodge, a pilot; and pilots Travis Maki of geosciences firm Bridgeporth, Ryan Hogan, and Matthew Coughlin; Andrew Furness was identified as the helicopter loadmaster in the mission; other PMCs were South Africans Sean Baker, a medic, Hendrik Bam, Christian Du Preez, Andre Greyvenstein, Gilliam and Joseph Joubert, Rudi Koekemoer, Quintan Paul, Lucas Schutte and Abel Smit; Britons Michael Allen, David Button, coxswains Sean Callaghan Louw and Andrew Scott Ritchie, a former Royal Marines commando, and Australian Richard Parish.

Behind the failed operation is said to be highly effective sponsors mostly from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia and Egypt. They are said to be managed by Christiaan Durrant, an Australian businessman and former fighter pilot who’s a detailed affiliate of Erik Prince, America’s most well-known mercenary entrepreneur.

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The Patriot on Sunday sent a questionnaire to DIS three weeks ago and have not been responded to at the time of going to print, despite that the Public Relations Officer Edward Robert had promised to do so.

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Additional Reporting [maltatoday.com.mt]



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