MASERU Magistrate Thamae Thamae will on Friday preside over the bail application by five suspected fraudsters allegedly impersonated Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) officials and illegally collected ‘taxes’ from various business people.
THE five accused include three members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) attached to the Special Operations Unit (SOU) and two unemployed civilians.
The three SOU officers are Messrs Mokheseng Khoabane (29), Keketso Palesa (35) and Pheello Motsingoane (34).
They are charged alongside civilians, Khotso Nqhae (25) and Tebello Lehloenya (31).
They were remanded on Friday remanded in custody by Magistrate Thamae after the prosecutor, Advocate Lechesa Mahao, objected to their application for free bail.
The accused face 16 counts including “unlawfully demanding money from the business premises of Lebohang Makhetha, Molefi Rabeng, Reitumetse Makhoalinyane, Letele Maputle, Matsoso Nthejane, ‘Mathabo Chale, ‘Mazanele Badela and Lepekola Mahlomola in January 2019 and falsely presented themselves as tax officers.
“The accused persons presented themselves as taxation officers to taxpayers by demanding tax clearance certificates and traders’ licences, threatening to take recovery measures by closing down the businesses of the said individual taxpayers for failure to comply with such demands.
“Acting on the false misrepresentation and the threats of closure of their businesses, the individual taxpayers would then pay amounts of money to the accused persons to avoid closure of their businesses as demanded by the accused,” part of the charge sheet reads.
The charge sheet further states that the accused demanded amounts ranging from M300 to M7000 from the victims.
“The accused falsely committed the offence of fraud because they were not appointed by the Commissioner of Taxes to perform functions related to the enforcement and administration of the revenue laws.
“The said accused did therefore commit the offence of impersonating an officer in contravention of section 72 of the VAT Act N0.9 of 2001.”
And on Friday Magistrate Thamae postponed the case to 22 March 2019 for the hearing of the bail application.
This was after the accused told the court they wanted free bail contrary to the agreement they made with prosecution that they would pay a bail deposit of M5000.
“Do you understand the charge?” Mr Thamae asked the accused to which they responded by saying, “we do but we request free bail”.
The magistrate then asked the prosecution if it had an objection regarding the free bail issue and Adv Mahao objected.
“We know bail is a right but the decision to grant it is up to the court. However, before coming into the court we talked with the accused persons that they would be granted bail of between M5 000 and M15 000 and we agreed that they pay M5 000 each.
“If they want free bail then we object,” Adv Mahao said.
The magistrate then told the accused, “now that you do not have M5 000, we have to look for the nearest date to argue the bail application”.
He therefore set 22 March 2019 as the date for the hearing the bail application.