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Arrested cop blames bad blood among officers

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A detective constable who was arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a local businessman claims his colleagues were working in cahoots with criminals to thwart his investigations into police corruption.
Mokhitlinyane Mokiti told Senior Resident Magistrate ’Makampong Mokhoro on Thursday that the police officers who arrested him on September 10, 2010 had acted in bad faith when they turned against him.
Mokiti had arrested local taxi operator, Lebajoa Qabalatsane, in connection with car theft. But while he was preparing to hand the case over to the Director of Public Prosecution, Mokiti himself was arrested by his colleagues who accused him of demanding a M4 000 bribe from Qabalatsane.
His colleagues said Mokiti had promised to drop the car theft charge levelled against Qabalatsane if he paid the bribe.
The police claimed they recovered M1 000 from Mokiti’s car as well as incriminating text messages he had sent to Qabalatsane asking for a bribe.
On Thursday, Mokiti told Magistrate Mokhoro that all this was a well calculated plan by his colleagues within the police to nail him.
He said he could not find his mobile phone for about three hours and during that period his colleagues must have send the text message to Qabalatsane from his phone.
“They acted like untrained and unprofessional police. They stole my cell phone,” he said.
He added his colleagues released Qalabatsane under unclear circumstances even when he was facing such a serious charge.
Mokiti said he also believed that the money that was found in his car was “planted” by his colleagues.
He said there is a syndicate in the police that is working with criminals to thwart “my investigation against criminals who stole blue cards at Government Printers”.
Mokiti, who is conducting his own defence, pleaded not guilty.
He is being charged with contravening the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act.
The prosecution however alleges that Mokiti, at the Excel Garage, near the Central Bank head office in Maseru, offered to do everything within his power to drop charges of car theft leveled against Qalabatsane.
The alleged offence took place on September 10, 2010.
He is now being charged with accepting a M1 000 bribe from Qabalatsane.
In his emotional address after he was given the chance to clarify points arising out of his cross-examination by prosecutor Gcinimuzi Tshabalala, Mokiti said the police trap against him was a smokescreen that was meant to deceive the court so that justice will not be done.
“The police whom I work with connived with criminals to make court orders against me and encouraged criminals to make orders against me saying that I am refusing to release their vehicles,” he said.
Mokiti, who has been a police officer for the past 27 years, said it was unfortunate that the men who had incriminated him were fellow police officers.
Mokiti called his wife ’Mammopa Mokiti as his only witness.
Earlier Mokiti had said he heard there were no other witnesses because people who could testify on his behalf were afraid to come forward.
’Mammopa told the court that on August 31, 2010 she was in the kitchen at about 8pm when Mokiti, who had just arrived from work, told her that his cell phone had been stolen.
She told the court that her husband had told her that a certain criminal had stolen his phone and had used it to send text messages to a “criminal”.
One of the messages said he (Mokiti) wanted money from Qabalatsane to drop the case.
’Mammopa said certain police officers, whom he had clashed with at work, had influenced Qabalatsane to send the message using his phone.
’Mammopa said Mokitimi then phoned Qabalatsane in her presence and asked him why he had texted such a message using his cell phone.
He told the court that a communications company, Vodacom Lesotho, had refused to give Mokiti print-outs of the texts or record of conversations.
He said the records would help to establish the time each text or conversation was made and the place where the calls were done.
Mokiti would be able to provide evidence of where he was at those times and whether his phone was with him or not.
“The truth will come to the fore and people who assist criminals will also suffer the consequences,” Mokiti said.
In his submissions Tshabalala told the court that Mokitimi and Qabalatsane discussed the issue of the bribe on several occasions near Speedy Complex in Maseru.
He said when Qabalatsane became tired of being pestered by Mokiti over the request, he then informed the police. The police then set a trap, he said.
He said the bulk of Mokiti’s evidence did not challenge the prosecution’s evidence except to show that there was bad blood between him and his colleagues.
Tshabalala said the prosecution had proved its case beyond doubt.
Judgment will be delivered on Friday.

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