Malawian tycoon Simbi Phiri of Khato Civils registered a convincing moral victory in Botswana High Court on September 7, 2017, as he was exonerated from any bad image of suspected money laundering that he was given by some sections of Botswana media with the help of that country’s so-called crime busting agency, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime(DCEC).
Almost a year ago, DCEC paraded false assertions that Simbi Phiri had been caught with a whopping USD 8.6 million in the boot of the car which he had tried to sneak into Botswana.
It had been a case of lies growing legs, as the false allegations would give birth to more scandals as he was battered from all sides by certain media houses.
Last week Thursday however may have proved a turning point in the veldt fires of false accusations against Simbi Phiri when the High Court finally settled the matter in favour of the billionaire business mogul.
Phiri may have gotten back all his funds, about R25 million, that had been frozen there for over a year, while he only enjoyed partial access of P500 000 a month, but for Phiri, it is not the money to cheer for.
In fact, when it comes to money, he has more than enough in his access in South Africa where he is presiding over companies with R3 billion plus turn over.
But when it comes to reputation, moral image, public perception, the Botswana court case victory on Thursday had been like the purest water washing clean a dirty linen, previously tainted by all the bad publicity that came to characterise this marathon, Tom and Jerry case.
When Phiri finally leaped with joy when he heard the news of the victory, some 600km away in Johannesburg, it was sure not about the leap for the released R25 million, it was the leap of moral victory, of confirmation of cleanliness in the handling of the affairs of his money in Botswana, the land of his mother.
Simbi is born of a Botswanan mother in Tonota, and Malawian father.
Interestingly Simbi Phiri’s moral victory in Botswana Courts of Laws had not been attained via some legal technicality. It was facts, and facts only that convinced the High Court judge that allegations of money laundering against Simbi Phiri have no leg or arm.
For Starters, Simbi had started depositing money into various Botswana bank, Stanbic Bank accounts from around 2010. His bank accounts, totalling nine, held various foreign currencies, as Simbi Phiri prepared himself to invest in Botswana by opening a division of Khato Civils.
It got ugly last year when Simbi Phiri appeared to be leading the race for the awarding of a multi-billion Pula water project, almost similar to the one he has won in Malawi.
In Botswana the water project is known as the North-South water project 2.2 and is worth in upwards of P8 billion.
It is believed it was no accident that the scandals in the media around Phiri coincided with the commercial interest in this multi-billion Project.
In Botswana, Khato Civils’ solution of putting to and end the water problems that were at the time bedevilling the capital city Gaborone and the entire southern parts of Botswana had already been approved by President Ian Khama.
The president was impressed, so was the Ministry but Simbi Phiri did not know that he was encroaching into an area already being eyed by sharks, and they gave him heat with the newspaper scandals that characterised his image in the Botswana media.
If he was not fighting the unsubstantiated allegations of money laundering, he was accused of buying influence to get a permission of change of land use, or accused of calling himself a Motswana, a Malawian, a South African, or of bribing authorities in Malawi to win the Lilongwe-Salima water projects, all unfounded.
While in Malawi Simbi Phiri would thank President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika for standing up and condemn colonial mentality that still think an African is not worthy of a billion Rand project even when Simbi Phiri had roved capable in his many projects in South Africa, in his motherland, Simbi Phiri could only rely on the justice system of the courts to declare him clean, incorrupt, not money laundering.
It had been a long, frustrating journey to justice however for Simbi in Botswana courts. In fact under normal circumstances, all things being equal Simbi Phiri should have long been vindicated by the courts, as far back as September last year when he first won the same case, clean and fair, with documentary evidence from Forex World and FNB South Africa, that confirmed he had been cleared to carry more than R20 million a year, by the Reserve bank of South Africa, that also confirmed his liquidity as a wealthy man with companies worth over R 3 billion and with personal bank accounts with over 5 million Rand.
He had also proved to the court without doubt that he was also among others in the business of international currency speculation that requires him to carry cash from time to time in his safe, and that he was moving funds into Botswana also to mobilise resources for setting up of his company, that by last year had already moved into its site of operation, machinery worth over R40 million.
Simbi Phiri had also told the court that in the many occasions he had brought cash into Botswana he had not failed to declare except on two occasions, when he under-declared by genuine mistake.
He also told the court that a money launderer would not deposit into bank accounts the same funds he is laundering as they would be traced back to him.
It was supposed to end there, but the DCEC appealed The case and froze the accounts for the second time, before Simbi Phiri applied for a variation order that allowed him access to P500 000 a month until June this year when the variation order was up for review.
In the meantime, heads had been rolling at the crime busting agency of Botswana largely due to incompetency and perception of corruption at the same corruption fighting agency.
Head of investigations a Mr. Phuthego, is on suspension and faces six years in jail after sharing with a Sunday Newspaper a docket to expose a Land and water resources Minister there that they suspect is very close to Simbi Phiri and hell-bent on giving the North-South water Carrier 2.2 project to Khato Civils ahead of a certain company favoured by some cabinet Ministers there.
A deputy director corporate services, who is believed to have been used by the rival forces to lay charges against Simbi Phiri has also been thrown out of the DCEC after a Phiri ad written a scathing letter that was published by Mmegi newspaper in Botswana, exposing her unethical dealings, while head of the DCEC, Ms Rose Seretse, has been removed and replaced by a former police commissioner Bruno Paledi.
Simbi Phiri’s moral case has also sent heads rolling and tumbling at Botswana’s corruption busting agency, and questions are being asked whether the remaining ones would dare conspire with commercial forces to face off with Simbi Phiri, again, or it is over, for sure, this time?
As for now, the shrewed bussiness tycoon has won the moral battle.