- Wants Nikuv bribery charges dropped, arguing he would not receive a fair trial after his co-accused decided to turn state witness in return for amnesty.
Former Home Affairs Principal Secretary (PS) Retšelisitsoe Khetsi wants the prosecution to drop corruption and bribery charges he faces before the High Court.
Mr Khetsi (46) is accused of allegedly receiving M5 million in bribes from Nikuv International Projects to influence the awarding of a M300 million tender to the Israeli firm in 2012.
Nikuv was controversially awarded the lucrative contract to computerise the country’s border-control system and produce electronic passports, birth and death certificates and national Identity Documents (IDs) without an open public tender.
However, the former PS on Tuesday filed an application in the High Court seeking an order directing the prosecution to discontinue the hearing, alleging his right to a fair trial would be infringed if his co-accused, South African Motsotuoa Makoa, is turned into a state witness.
Mr Makoa has offered to testify against Mr Khetsi in exchange for amnesty.
In his lengthy affidavit before the court, Mr Khetsi describes how he learnt of his co-accused’s deal, as well as Nikuv’s offer to assist the prosecution in the case, in exchange for indemnity for its staff.
“Even though on annexure ‘RK1’ (the charge sheet) I appear as Accused One and Motsotuoa Makoa (43) is Accused Two, I have been informed by my attorneys and verily believe that they have been informed that the said Motsotuoa Makoa will be turned into an accomplice witness.
“As I will demonstrate hereunder, this fact is borne out by documents supplied by the prosecution as part of their pre-trial disclosures.
“In Makoa’s statement, there is a reference to an Indemnity Agreement signed by him and the Attorney General of Lesotho,” Mr Khetsi noted.
He also stated Nikuv Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Ammon Pier, made a statement detailing his company’s conditions for returning to Lesotho after abandoning the contract following some misunderstanding with government.
Mr Khetsi said one of the conditions was government should not prosecute Nikuv employees accused of corruption in the awarding of the tender.
He added: “In paragraph 3.5 (of the deputy director’s statement) Nikuv employees are to testify, if requested, for the Crown possibly as accomplice witnesses from a venue outside Lesotho and only after Nikuv shall have completed the execution of the agreement and paid certain sums of money, subject to the retention of certain sums of money.”
However, he argues both the prosecution and defence have equal rights in determining the indemnity of witnesses.
“I am legally advised and verily believe the same to be true that both the prosecution and defence in a criminal trial, enjoy the same status and there should be no reason why the prosecution should arrogate to itself the power to grant indemnity to witnesses.
“In all the circumstances, I verily aver that I will not receive fair treatment and my trial can only bring the administration of the criminal justice system into disrepute amongst right-thinking persons,” he stated.
Mr Khetsi also criticised the prosecution for striking a deal with Nikuv at his expense.
“The use of criminal processes to bargain for services from a powerful multinational and sacrificing me in the process is not a recognised purpose for which the administration of the criminal justice system should be employed.
“All the proceedings only lead to one conclusion, namely that my prosecution constitutes an abuse of court processes.
“This honourable court is asked in all the circumstances, that the prosecution be stayed as prayed for in the notice of motion.”
Meanwhile, Mr Khetsi’s application will be argued before Justice Molefi Makara on 18 May 2015.
It is the state’s case that between January and November 2012, Mr Khetsi, in his capacity as chief accounting officer and Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs, allegedly received bribes of around M5 million from Mr Makoa, who was then a Nikuv agent.
Mr Khetsi is also facing an alternative charge of corruption “in contravention of section 21 (3) (b) of Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act No 5 of 1999.”
He is alleged to have abused his position as PS to violate Procurement Regulations No-1 of 2007 for purposes of obtaining and granting the contract to the Israeli company.
In the second alternative charge, Mr Makoa is alleged to have offered to give a benefit of M5 million to Mr Khetsi “as an inducement or reward to him for unlawfully and irregularly facilitating the granting of the said contract to Nikuv.”
Both Mr Khetsi and Mr Makoa are out on M10 000 each.