HomeLocal NewsProbe into US$533m Kariba power project widened

Probe into US$533m Kariba power project widened

THE Botswana government’s investigation of legislator Samson Guma Moyo, suspected to have corruptly received payments from Zimbabwe’s US$533 million Kariba South power extension project, has been widened after the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (Burs) launched its own investigation.

Hazel Ndebele

Moyo, a Motswana with Zimbabwean roots and strong connections to government and Zanu PF bigwigs, was hauled before the courts on bribery and corruption allegations following the discovery of a series of suspicious payments to him running into more than US$10 million from the Zimbabwean project.

Kariba South power project commissioning
Kariba South power project commissioning

Media reports from Botswana this week indicated that Burs has also swooped on Moyo. The tax authorities believe he has been evading tax following his cross-border business transactions.

Burs has reportedly impounded Guma’s documents, computers and laptops. His companies have also been raided resulting in the confiscation of documents and computers.

In addition, Burs officials demanded that Guma’s companies reveal their clients.

Moyo told Botswana weekly, the Sunday Standard, that there was nothing unprecedented about the latest investigation.

“I was not at my businesses premises, but they informed me that they were visiting my offices to conduct an audit of my businesses. They met my staff and we allowed them to do their job freely,” he told the paper.

“It’s normal. They have done it before. If they check on your returns, they have the right to come to your offices. Anybody who is in business attracts the attention of the taxman; there is money accruing and if there is any amount due you have to reconcile and pay. You can’t circumvent the law.

“… If there is something that I owe, I will make an arrangement and pay,” said Moyo.

Guma’s business partner, Botswana Youth minister Thapelo Olopeng — reportedly a friend of Botswana President Ian Khama — is also implicated in the scandal and is under investigation.

Through his company IRB Transport Gumasays, he was given a construction consultancy and transport contract by Sinohydro Corporation that led to him being paid the millions.

Botswana authorities, however, suspect organised corruption involving high-profile Zimbabweans in the deal and have thus frozen his accounts while investigating the case. IRB’s accounts have also been frozen.

Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, which is investigating Moyo, says the legislator had failed to justify why he was being paid such huge amounts. Investigators also suspect invoices he gave as evidence were forged.

In his defence, Guma, through an affidavit, has explained that the huge sums of money paid in his accounts were for services provided to Sinohydro. He said in 2013 the Chinese company engaged IRB for the construction of the project.

On January 20 2013, Sinohydro transferred US$3,2 million to Guma’s transport company which he says he acquired through an equity buyout from Olopeng, but Botswana authorities believe the minister is still a shareholder in the company although he resigned as a director.

Guma said on March 30 2014 he issued the Chinese construction company an invoice of P45 126 190 (US$4,4 million).
Sinohydro paid Guma’s company U$3 153 029,94 on November 28 2014.

Sinohydro is a Chinese state-owned company and the world’s largest hydropower construction company with a 50% share of the international hydropower market, and won the tender to carry out the power extension project in 2012.

Questions have however been raised over the cost structure and escalation of the project with former energy minister Elton Mangoma and ex-finance minister Tendai Biti, who were part of the team that negotiated the deal during the inclusive government era (2009-2013), saying its costs have been inexplicably inflated from an initial US$370 million to US$533 million.

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