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Letsoepa wanted for embezzlement

 

’Marafaele Mohloboli

FORMER police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa’s woes keep on piling up with the Magistrate’s Court issuing a warrant for his arrest for embezzlement during his tenure at the helm of the law enforcement agency.

The latest development comes in the wake of attempts by the government to extradite Mr Letsoepa, who is exiled in South Africa, to assist with investigations into the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng.

According to the arrest warrant, dated 28 September 2017, Mr Letsoepa is wanted for contravening section 58 (1) and section 59 (c) of the Penal Code Act 2010.

Titled “Wrongful application of funds” section 58 (1) states that: “A person who is lawfully in possession of money belonging to another and who wrongfully applies that money to his or her own use, or wrongfully applies it to a use other than that for which he or she understood the owner to have entrusted it to his or her possession, commits the offence of theft.”

Section 59 (c) of the same law states that a person commits aggravated theft if the property he or she steals is: “. . . the property of the State and has come into his or her possession in the course of his or her employment as an employee of the State.”

Police spokesperson, Mpiti Mopeli, confirmed the issuance of the warrant of arrest on Friday but would not be drawn to elaborate on the amount of money the former top cop is accused of embezzling or when the alleged offence was committed.

“The warrant is based on contravention of section 58 (1) and section 59 (c) of the Penal Code Act 2010 in relation to misuse of government funds,” he said.

However, sources privy to the matter, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said Mr Letsoepa and some his lieutenants within the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) abused their status as senior officers to embezzle the agency’s funds.

The sources said they even opened an account with a local bank known by the Sunday Express to deposit the embezzled money.

“They transferred all the embezzled funds into that account, and mind you, this is money that belonged to the police,” the sources said.

Mr Letsoepa officially retired as LMPS commissioner on 11 September 2017 after being pushed out by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Letsoepa – who was appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government in November 2015 – was sent on an involuntary 90-day leave by Dr Thabane in June this year.

Mr Letsoepa wrote to Dr Thabane in July requesting to be allowed to take an early retirement to pre-empt attempts to dismiss him which would have resulted in the loss of some of his benefits.

He made the request after then Acting Government Secretary, Emmanuel Lesoma, gave him  seven days by to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed.

In the letter, the former top cop was accused of a litany of charges related to misconduct and “and/or criminal activities”.

Among other things, Mr Letsoepa was accused of failing to probe the 30 August 2014 killing of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko and the 25 June 2015 fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was killed on 30 August 2014 while on duty at Police Headquarters during an attempted coup by the LDF.

Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, with the military claiming he was resisting arrest for allegedly plotting to overthrow the army command.

However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family has accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

Last month, the government said it was in the process of engaging intergovernmental police organisation, Interpol, to facilitate the extradition of Mr Letsoepa from South Africa to assist with investigations into the murder of PC Khetheng.

PC Khetheng died under mysterious circumstances after being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.

PC Khetheng was reburied in August in his home district of Mokhotlong after the arrest of four LMPS officers which yielded information on the whereabouts of his remains.

Former defence minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, has since been charged with PC Khetheng’s murder along with the four officers. Mr Mokhosi has since fled the country after being granted bail.

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