FIVE suspected fraudsters who allegedly impersonated Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) officers and illegally collected ‘taxes’ from various businesses were finally granted bail by Maseru Magistrate Thamae Thamae on Friday.
Mr Thamae ordered that each of the accused persons should pay a bail deposit of M3000.
The five accused include three members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) attached to the Special Operations Unit (SOU) and two unemployed persons civilians.
The three SOU members are Messrs Mokheseng Khoabane (29), Keketso Palesa (35) and Pheello Motsingoane (34).
They are charged alongside civilians, Khotso Nqhae (25) and Tebello Lehloenya (31).
In the previous appearance on 15 March 2019, Magistrate Thamae postponed the bail application to 22 March after the prosecution objected to the suspects being granted free bail.
The accused face 16 counts including “unlawfully demanding money from the business premises of Lebohang Makhetha, Molefi Rabeng, Reitumetse Makhoalinyane, Letele Maputle, Matsoso Nthejane, ‘Mathabo Chale, ‘Mazanele Badela and Lepekola Mahlomola in January 2019 and falsely presented themselves as tax officers.
“The accused persons presented themselves as taxation officers to taxpayers by demanding tax clearance certificates and traders’ licences, threatening to take recovery measures by closing down the businesses of the said individual taxpayers for failure to comply with such demands.
“Acting on the false misrepresentation and the threats of closure of their businesses, the individual taxpayers would then pay amounts of money to the accused persons to avoid closure of their businesses as demanded by the accused,” part of the charge sheet reads.
The charge sheet further states that the accused demanded amounts ranging from M300 to M7000 from the victims.
“The accused falsely committed the offence of fraud because they were not appointed by the Commissioner of Taxes to perform functions related to the enforcement and administration of the revenue laws.
“The said accused did therefore commit the offence of impersonating an officer in contravention of section 72 of the VAT Act N0.9 of 2001.”
And on Friday, Magistrate Thamae granted the accused bail on condition they each paid M3000.
“Your bail application is not opposed. What is important is that court should set conditions for bail, the court has seen the seriousness of the crime and the degree of punishment if you were to be convicted, however bail remains the discretion of the court,” Mr Thamae said before granting them M3000 bail each.
“Each (suspect) must find somebody to pledge surety in the sum of M10 000 or property to that value in case they flee. You must attend remands and report to court on 2 April 2019,” Mr Thamae further ruled.