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DCEO charges govt employees with money laundering

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has charged two government employees, Nthatisi Thabane and Mathabo Matsoso, with money laundering and corruption.

Thabane and Matsoso allegedly defrauded the Ministry of Home Affairs of M280 000. They were granted M1500 bail each when they appeared in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday. They will next appear in court on 3 September 2020.

According to the charge sheet, Thabane and Matsoso defrauded the Ministry of Home Affairs of M280 000 by unlawfully receiving and keeping funds from four foreign nationals who had applied for naturalisation in February this year.

Evidence presented in court by the DCEO showed that Thabane was employed in the ministry as Refugee and Migration Liaison Officer while Matsoso was secretary to then Home Affairs deputy minister Machesetsa Mofomobe.

The duo is charged alongside a self-employed naturalised Mosotho, Ensenjor Akinagum. The DCEO said all the three accused persons were not involved in the processing of naturalisation applications in the home affairs ministry.

The anti-graft body said the trio never-the-less contacted some people who had applied for the Lesotho citizenship and promised to fast-track their applications in exchange for bribes.

On order to fast-track the applications, the DCEO said the trio demanded that each applicant pays M70 000 for the application and a further M30 000 for “drinks”.

The DCEO says Akinagum was the intermediary facilitating contact between Akinagum and Thabane and the latter would pass all the messages to Matsoso.

“During this period the accused unlawfully received and kept in their possession monies meant for naturalisation certificates from four applicants amounting to M280 000. Accused one and two (Thabane and Matsoso) issued the applicants with fake receipts as proof of payment for the M70 000 naturalisation certificate.

“By reason of the above-mentioned accused’s fraudulent and corrupt conduct, the Ministry of Home Affairs has lost revenue amounting to M280 000…

“Thus, the accused persons are guilty of the crime of money laundering,” the DCEO alleges.

The Thabane and Matsoso cases is one of the many cases that the DCEO is pursuing as part of efforts to rid government institutions of corruption.

Since his July 2020 appointment as DCEO director general, Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, has vowed to not only probe government institutions but also private companies and individuals who have been awarded government tenders to ensure everything is above board and the sate does not lose money to corruptio0n, fraud and money laundering.

Under Adv Manyokole’s stewardship, the DCEO has found that state procurement regulations could have been violated to allow a local company, Katleho Logistics, to pocket millions of maloti for managing the government’s Mascon railway facility in Maseru.

A fortnight ago, Adv Manyokole told the Sunday Express that the government has not been paid a single cent ever since Katleho Logistics was awarded a contract to manage the railway facility by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in 2018.

He said Katleho Logistics has pocketed at least M8 million from managing the railway facility.

This is the second such unprocedural contract the DCEO has uncovered in recent months. In June 2020, the DCEO discovered that the government-owned Victoria Hotel had been allegedly unprocedurally and corruptly leased out in 2002 by then Finance Minister Timothy Thahane.

It was then used as a conduit for money laundering by South African based businessman, Thabiso Tlelai, the DCEO alleges. The DCEO estimates that the government has been prejudiced of M19, 4 million due to non-payment of rent.

 

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