HOW MOLOME ‘GRAFTED’ BOPEU millions
Through three questionable transactions that Ernest Molome allegedly made between 2016 and 2018 via his alleged relationship with certain top dogs at Babereki Investments, the football fanatic with no known financial skills made a staggering P16.4 million in cash and equity
o the oblivious lot, Ernest Molome is just a football fanatic who was made famous by his previous chairmanship of Mochudi Centre Chiefs, which was at one point a top performer. Other than being a businessman and a professional marketer, he has another side that is known only by a few people close to him. He is a skilled ‘facilitator’ or middleman. Through his network of the rich and powerful, he is said to have learnt how to facilitate meetings between people who may need something from each other but have no access to each other. He charges heavily for facilitating these meetings.
Through these middleman talents of his, he was able to strike deals for Babereki Investments inspite of having no established knowledge and skills in financial services. The deals, though controversial, earned him more than P16 million (in cash and equity) in just two years.
A peek into a forensic investigation report on the affairs of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) reveals that between 2016 and 2018, almost all investments made by Babereki Investments were ‘facilitated’ by Molome, who would later claim lucrative commissions.
The findings of ENS Forensics (Pty) Limited question Molome’s facilitations. The forensic investigators query especially Molome’s relationship with ex-chairman of BOPEU (also former Executive Chairman of Babereki Investments), Andrew Motsamai. ENS Forensics questions four transactions out of which Molome walked away with a cool P16.4 million (in monetary and in shareholding terms). Some of this money was found to have been obtained fraudulently by the High Court that ordered Molome to return the money to BOPEU. ENS notes that investments in a funeral undertaker called Babereki Ka-Lerato, a company called Future Sustain International (FSI) and another called Quality Builders Botswana (Pty) Ltd were initiated by the shareholders of the businesses but Molome somehow appears to have played the role of negotiator in all three.
“When we interviewed Mr Molome, it did not appear that he had any special skill that recommended him as a negotiator in these transactions,” the forensic investigation report reads. The forensic investigators wrote in their report that the owner of Quality Builders Botswana (Pty) Ltd, Gurdev Singh Chana, told them that Motsamai and former CEO of Babereki Investments Victor Leoketsa told him to use Molome as negotiator in the Quality Builders deal.
It was then that on 11 May 2016, Chana wrote to Babereki Investments offering to build and sell affordable houses and investments to Babereki Investments. The project was a turnkey development of design and build, with land given to Quality Builders by Babereki Investments as a donation. Chana made a presentation to the Babereki board on 22 June 2016. Between 2016 and 2017, Babereki Investments paid a total of P8.960 million to Quality Builders Botswana (Propriety) Limited (and Chana’s other company, GG Developers) for construction of affordable houses and offices for Babereki Investments without approval of the board. As the negotiator, Molome charged Quality Builders P1 million in professional fees and was paid the amount together with his company, Mamataz Enterprises (Pty) Ltd.
Molome was also the middleman in the Babereki Ka-Lerato deal in which he gained shares valued at over P1 million. According to the forensic report, on 11 February 2016, Babereki Investments received a letter from funeral undertakers Ka-Lerato (Pty) Ltd offering Babereki Investments 70 percent of its shares. On 11 February 2016, Molome acting as an agent, made a presentation to the Board of Babareki Investments of an offer of 70 percent shareholding in Ka-Lerato.
It emerges that Ka-Lerato did not present any audited financials to Babereki Investments, according to the audit report. The forensic audit states that there was no valuation of the funeral undertakers and no due diligence was conducted. Further, the report states that the investment amount requested by Ka-Lerato was not based on any verified financial information.
On 3 March 2016, a Babereki Investments Special Board meeting resolved to obtain 51 percent shareholding in Ka-Lerato for P2.295 million and to change the company’s name to Babereki Ka-Lerato. Former CEO of Ka –Lerato, Lazarus Molefi, then retained 25 percent of the company while Mamataz Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by Ernest Molome and others, held 24 percent shares in the new entity.
However, the P2.295 million payment for the 51 percent shareholding went directly to Molefi. The new shareholding, according to the forensic investigators, raised eyebrows after upon finding that Molome (and/or Mamataz) were given a 24 percent shareholding in Babereki Ka-Lerato when Molome did not appear to have invested any funds in the company. If Babereki bought 51 shares in Ka-Lerato for P2. 295 million, it would mean that the 24 percent shares in Babereki Ka-Lerato that were given to Molome were for free. They were valued at P1 080 000 at the time. This means that Molome was given shares worth more than a million pula without having made any monetary investment.
Molome was also the middleman when Babereki Investments injected millions into a company called Future Sustain International (FSI) that was solely owned by Benjamin Raletsatsi at the time. The forensic report shows that on 26 January 2016, Future Sustain International (Pty) Ltd (FSI) proposed to sell 50 percent of its shares to Babereki Investments. The presentation is said to have been made by Benjamin Raletsatsi. On 3 March 2016, the Babereki Board resolved to purchase 51 percent shares in FSI for P3.57 million and to provide a loan of P7 million to the company for the purpose of expanding the business.
When the investment was made, the value of the shares or method used to calculate it was not known, according to the report. Further, after Babereki Investments, Molome appeared as a shareholder owning between 15 percent and 18 percent but it is not clear how he obtained the shares since he never injected any funds into FSI, according to the findings. The 18 percent allegedly given to Molome for free at that time appears to have been valued at P1 260 000.
ENS Forensic questioned the relationship between Molome and executives of Bebereki Investments at the time after it allegedly emerged that on 8 January 2016, Motsamai entered into a mandate agreement with Mamataz without the knowledge of the Board of Babereki Investments. According to that agreement, Mamataz Enterprises was appointed a consultant to raise capital for Babereki Investments for a period of 24 months. Babereki Investments needed around P1.2 billion. On 11 September 2016, Botswana Life Insurance Limited wrote to Babereki Investments agreeing to provide funding, although the amount of this was not disclosed, according to the audit report.
It turns out that on 2 September 2016, a facilitation letter was signed between Babereki Investments and Mamataz in which Babereki Investments agreed to pay Mamataz 3 percent of the capital raised as facilitation fees, which was to be paid in six tranches. It emerges in the forensic audit report that while Babereki Investments received only P50 million from Botswana Life, and not the P1.2 billion it sought, Mamataz was paid P13 104 000 in a one-off transaction. This is inspite of the fact that 3 percent of P50 million is only P1.5 million.
From all these transactions, which happened between 2016 and 2018, Molome appears to have made monetary and shareholding amounting to a cumulative P16.4 million.
He proved unwilling to engage when The Business Weekly & Review wanted to ask him about these transactions and how he was mandated to undertake them, as well as his qualifications in finance.
While the forensic investigators wrote in their report that Molome was appointed by Motsamai without the knowledge of the board, insiders have told The Business Weekly & Review that all presentations made by Molome were before the entire Board of Directors of Babereki Investments and that they did not query Molome’s appointments but proceeded to approve the investments through board resolutions. As for Motsamai himself, the former Executive Chairman of Babereki Investments admitted that he knows Molome, but he has no shady dealings with him. Motsamai said the ‘facilitator’ was appointed on the basis of his capabilities to deliver.
Further to that, Motsamai said the board of directors never questioned that agreement.
“All services and investments brought by Molome were also approved through a board resolution, where all members were present,” he said.
In an interview with BOPEU ex-president Masego Mogwera last week, she distanced herself from such investments, and said she was the one who rather reported on them and called for an inquiry.
However, Motsamai said Mogwera sat on the board and was part of the team that approved the investments brought about by Molome.