FINANCIAL Intelligence Unit (FIU) director Palesa Khabele and two other FIU officers, Itumeleng Monyau and Thikhoane Molapo, this week appeared before Maseru Magistrate Senekal Qobolo on charges of perjury. The trio was released on free bail and their trial will be held on 28 and 29 October 2020.
Khabele, Monyau and Molapo allegedly lied under oath to police officers that they had no access to pay slips of several FIU officers who are being investigated for fraud.
The trio is also among those being investigated for fraud amid suspicions that they could have concealed evidence of money obtained through fraudulent means being paid into their insurance accounts.
In January this year, then Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro told the Lesotho Times that he was concerned about the fraud allegations. He said he would appoint “a third party” to investigate these and other graft allegations raised against senior officials of the FIU.
“I can confirm that allegations and counter-allegations by the staff of the Financial Intelligence Unit have been brought to my attention,” said Dr Majoro.
“The FIU is a critical and sensitive entity involved in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism as well as other financial crimes.
“Consequently, I am duty bound to take any allegations seriously in order to preserve the integrity of the institution. I am planning to appoint a third-party expert to ascertain the veracity of these allegations and if need be to act accordingly. The FIU is a public institution and as such, it is subject to audits by the Office of the Auditor General.”
It appears that Dr Majoro had not appointed “the third party” to investigate the fraud allegations by the time he was appointed to his current post of prime minister in May 2020.
At the time, Dr Majoro’s then principal secretary, Motena Tšolo, said she had engaged the police to investigate the FIU upon realising that the laws governing the institution barred her from auditing its books. Ms Tšolo did not say which laws barred her from auditing the FIU.
The investigations have however, been frustrated by the resistance by Khabele who did not deliver the pay slips requested by the police. There were several correspondences throughout 2019 between Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa and Khabele after the former requested to be furnished with pay slips of the FIU officers from July 2016 to April 2017.
Detective Sergeant Moroosi, the principal investigator of the alleged fraud, subsequently sought and obtained a court order compelling Khabele to avail the pay slips to facilitate the investigation. The order was granted by Magistrate Qobolo on 27 September 2019 who directed that the pay slips be availed on or before 7 October 2019.
But instead of immediately submitting the pay slips, Khabele engaged a law firm to seek legal advice on how best to handle the situation.
“We have been served with a court order and seek your legal opinion on how to act. We regard the matter as urgent,” Khabele stated in her letter to her lawyers, Mei and Mei Attorneys.
She also wrote to Detective Sergeant Moroosi informing him that she could not furnish copies of the pay slips due to glitches in their computer systems that prevented them from retrieving the documents.
But the police dismissed her claims as false. They have now charged her alongside Monyau and Molapo for lying about the pay slips.
Other FIU officers who were being investigated by the police are Liteboho Mosoeunyane, Paul Mothae, ‘Matau Mabitle, Tente Machite, Jothane Phakisi and Mofokeng Ramakhala.