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DCEO empowered to probe money laundering outside Lesotho

Bereng Mpaki

PARLIAMENT on Thursday amended the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act to equip the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) with powers to investigate money laundering beyond national borders.

Previously, the DCEO could only investigate money laundering with Lesotho. The amendment will allow the directorate to collaborate with similar entities from other countries in fighting international financial crimes.

The amendment, which was initiated by Minister of Justice and Law, Professor Nqosa Mahao, was read for the second and third time on the same day before being passed by the house.

Explaining the purpose of the amendments, Prof Mahao said the changes would give the DCEO powers to investigate money laundering crimes beyond the national boundaries.

“The purpose of the amendment bill is to empower DCEO with the powers to investigate money laundering crimes or any other criminal activities under the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act of 2008,” Prof Mahao said in parliament.

The second part of the amendment gives the DCEO the powers to enter into working relations with similar anti-corruption bodies outside the country to exchange information and offenders towards fighting money laundering across international boundaries.

Supporting the amendment, Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, said the DCEO had been “toothless” in the past.

“The DCEO has, to some extent, been a toothless dog and we are hoping this amendment will go a long way to addressing this challenge,” Adv Rakuoane said.

The All Basotho Convention’s (ABC) Mabote constituency legislator, Fako Moshoeshoe, welcomed the amendment saying there was rampant looting of public funds during procurement that must be addressed.

“The time has come for the protection of public funds through this amendment. The level of mismanagement of the public purse is heartbreaking. Decision-making on the usage of the public funds leaves much to be desired and denies taxpayers their right to services,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.

Alliance of Democrats (AD) legislator, Kose Makoa, said while it is good to empower the DCEO, caution must be exercised so as not to create a situation where the anti-corruption works unchecked. He said the DCEO must report to parliament to ensure that it is not misused to fight political battles.

“There is a common view that in its current form, the DCEO is a tool used by politicians to fight their battles, so the minister must ensure that the DCEO is accountable to another authority to avoid abuse,” Mr Makoa said.

Meanwhile, the house also passed the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Act, 2020, which was also read for the second and third time shortly before being passed.

Prof Mahao said the amendment of the law was necessary to align it with that of neighbouring countries towards cooperation in fighting money laundering and international boundary crimes.

“Lesotho is part of the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), and it is necessary to amend our law to have the same interpretation as other countries for the sake of cooperation.”

The purpose of the ESAAMLG is to combat money laundering by coordinating with other international organisations concerned with combating money laundering, studying emerging regional typologies, developing institutional and human resource capacities to deal with these issues, and coordinating technical assistance where necessary.

“Secondly, we have observed the need for a person who may want to come forward with evidence on a case before the courts to be able to do so voluntarily. The bill is therefore going to give such persons an opportunity to voluntarily initiate evidence in a money laundering case before the courts,” Prof Mahao said.

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