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Bank workers in M18.5m scandal

Nat Molomo

MASERU — The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has busted a syndicate of Standard Lesotho Bank employees and business owners who allegedly stole M18.5 million from the government. The prosecution alleges that the syndicate of four men and six women laundered the money through various businesses and other assets.

The arrest of the 10 suspects follows a DCEO raid on their homes and businesses on July 25. The anti-corruption unit impounded several vehicles suspected to have been bought using money stolen from the government.
The suspects appeared before Chief Magistrate ’Mantakiso Nthunya on Friday but were not asked to plead.

They were allowed to go home after they were granted M10 000 bail each.
The magistrate however ordered two of the suspects to surrender surety worthy M70 000 each in addition to the M10 000 bail. They were remanded to August 16 after being warned against interfering with witnesses and hampering investigations.

The 10 are facing charges of money laundering involving M18.5 million which the prosecution says was spirited from government accounts at Standard Lesotho Bank. They are also facing alternative charges of fraud, theft and aggravated theft, according to the charge sheet.

Among the accused are four Standard Lesotho Bank employees. ’Mabotsang Maseele Matsoso, Palo Thonkha and Mamello Khoali are relationship managers responsible for government accounts at the bank. ’Mamakae ’Mefane is employed as a customer care consultant at the same bank.

Four business owners are also among the suspects. They are Karabo Moohlo who owns KB General Dealer, ’MaDaniel Shakhane who owns Shakhane Computer Supplier, Lebohang Phohleli who runs Storm Enterprises and Thato Ts’osane who runs Ts’osane Transport and Construction Services.

The professions of Ntoali Maraisane and Daniel Shakhane, the two other suspects, are not mentioned in the charge sheet but the crown says they also benefited from the fraudulent scheme. The crown alleges that the syndicate stole the money over two years, from 2011 to 2013.

The money was stolen from dormant government accounts held with Standard Lesotho Bank. In 2011 the government had, through the Accountant General, instructed the bank to close the dormant accounts. The instruction was that the money in the accounts should be transferred to the Central Bank of Lesotho.

The crown alleges that the syndicate transferred the money to accounts of several companies and individuals using fake letters. It is alleged that Matsoso was working in concert with Thonkha while ‘Mefane was conniving with Khoali to fraudulently transfer the money to accounts held in different banks.

They allegedly created fake letters on government letterheads to give the impression that the transfers had been approved by the government ministries and departments. Between 2011 and 2013 the syndicate is alleged to have made 19 fraudulent transfers amounting to M18 521 362.67.

The first transfer was made on October 31, 2011 and the last one was made on April 17, 2012. The charge sheet indicates that the bulk of the money was first transferred between accounts within the bank before it was funneled to other banks.

Through four transactions the syndicate transferred M12 766 312 from four accounts to an account held with Standard Lesotho Bank. The money was transferred from accounts Iran House, Teyateyaneng Sub Accountancy and Qacha’s Nek Sub Accountancy. Its destination was an account held by the Rural Finance and Enterprise, a Ministry of Agriculture project.

Once in the Rural Finance and Enterprise’s account the money would
then be distributed to various companies through accounts held at FNB and Nedbank. The biggest beneficiaries of the money were KB Construction and KB General Dealer which are owned by Moohlo.

In its FNB account KB Construction is alleged to have received a total of M10 354 863 through seven transactions ranging from M153 000 to M4 432 121.
KB General Dealers received M1 758 113 through five transactions into its Nedbank account. Ts’osane Transport and Construction Services which is owned by Ts’osane allegedly received M2 996 000 through an account at FNB.
Shakhane’s company, Shakhane Computer Suppliers, received M1 482 820 through its FNB account.

Storm Enterprises, owned by Pholeli, was given M482 169 through its account at Nedbank. Other accounts that were allegedly looted belonged to the Livestock Department, Phuthiatsana Project, District Development Project, Lesotho Defence Force as well as Irish Aid and Support Programme.

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