MASERU — A senior High Court judge has been forced to recuse himself from the long-running MKM case after it emerged he had borrowed a vehicle from a “friend” who is a senior official of the beleaguered financial company.
Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi, a respected judge, is understood to have been given the vehicle by the MKM “friend” sometime last November after his government-issued car broke down and took long to be repaired.
At that time Justice Monaphathi was already presiding over MKM’s several court cases.
The Sunday Express understands Justice Monaphathi used the vehicle for nearly four months — up to February this year when his official car was returned from the garage where it was being repaired.
This paper could not independently verify allegations by sources that the car was in fact registered under MKM.
MKM is battling to fend off moves by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) to liquidate the company.
The central bank shut down MKM in November 2007 after accusing the company of operating insurance and banking businesses without relevant licences.
Thereafter auditors appointed by the central bank discovered that MKM could not account for nearly M300 million it had received from depositors in investments.
The central bank believes MKM was neither a legitimate bank nor an investment concern but a pyramid scheme meant to swindle money from unsuspecting depositors.
MKM has denied this.
The company has reacted by launching a raft of court cases aimed at reversing its closure and blocking the central bank’s plans to liquidate it.
Justice Monapathi has dealt with some of these cases over the past three years.
That he has been driven in a vehicle linked to MKM for nearly four months at a time he was dealing with some of the company’s court cases has cast doubt on his integrity and raised questions of conflict of interest.
A highly placed source in the High Court told the Sunday Express that Justice Monapathi had to recuse himself from the MKM cases three weeks ago after he was confronted by the Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla about the “potential conflict of interest that arose from him using an MKM vehicle when he was dealing with the company’s cases”.
The source said the chief justice told the judge that he believed his actions had not only compromised him but could also affect the High Court’s integrity.
It is understood that Justice Monapathi admitted to the chief justice that he had borrowed the vehicle from a “friend” who works for MKM but said he did not know whether or not the car belonged to MKM directly.
The chief justice, the source added, advised the judge to recuse himself.
The Sunday Express was told this week that Chief Justice Lehohla has handed the MKM case to Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane.
Investigations have also revealed most judges are reluctant to handle MKM cases.
This paper has it on good authority that some High Court judges had invested “huge amounts in MKM”.
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