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M18 million fraud suspects re-arrested

Matankiso NthunyaCaswell Tlali

MASERU — Three of the 10-member syndicate accused of stealing and laundering M18.5 million from the government will spend the weekend behind bars after they were rearrested on fresh charges on Thursday. ’Mabotsang Matsoso, Karabo Moohlo and Thato Tšosane were arrested by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) on Thursday.

Their arrest is not related to the M18.5 million they are alleged to have stolen from the government as part of the syndicate. The DCEO suspects that the three could have been part of another syndicate that was involved in financial crimes. DCEO spokesperson ’Matlhokomelo Senoko told the Sunday Express that the three have not yet been charged because the anti-corruption unit is still investigating the matter.

“At present, as a matter of policy, we will not tell what charges they are likely to face,” Senoko said. The three spent Thursday night behind bars before they were brought to court on Friday morning for a remand hearing on the earlier charges. “What I can say is that the arrests are not related to the matter that is already in the court. It’s a separate investigation whose focus I cannot reveal for ethical reasons,” said Senoko.

Matsoso is employed by Standard Lesotho Bank as a relationship manager responsible for government accounts. Moohlo owns KB General Dealer and KB Construction while Tšosane owns Tšosane Transport and Construction Services. Two weeks ago they appeared before chief magistrate ’Mantakiso Nthunya together with seven others to face charges of siphoning M18.5 million from several government accounts held with Standard Lesotho Bank.

The other accused are Palo Thonkha and Mamello Khoali who are relationship managers responsible for government accounts at Standard Lesotho Bank. ’Mamakae ’Mefane is employed as a customer care consultant at the same bank.

They also include ’Madaniel Shakhane who owns Shakhane Computer Supplier and Lebohang Phohleli who runs Storm Enterprises. The professions of Ntoali Maraisane and Daniel Shakhane are not mentioned but the crown says they also benefited from the fraudulent scheme. The 10 suspects were arrested following a DCEO raid on their homes and businesses on July 25.

The anti-corruption unit impounded several vehicles suspected to have been bought using money stolen from the government. They were allowed to go home after they were granted M10 000 bail each. On Friday they were remanded to September 16. The 10 are facing charges of money laundering involving M18.5 million which the prosecution says was spirited from government accounts at Standard Lesotho Bank. They are also facing alternative charges of fraud, theft and aggravated theft, according to the charge sheet.

The crown alleges that the syndicate stole and laundered the money over two years, from 2011 to 2013. In 2011 the government had, through the Accountant General, instructed the bank to close the dormant accounts. The instruction was that the money in the accounts should be transferred to the Central Bank of Lesotho. The crown alleges that the syndicate transferred the money to accounts of several companies and individuals using fake letters.

It is alleged that Matsoso was working in concert with Thonkha while ‘Mefane was conniving with Khoali to fraudulently transfer the money to accounts held in different banks. They allegedly created fake letters on government letterheads to give the impression that the transfers had been approved by government ministries and departments. Between 2011 and 2013 the syndicate is alleged to have made 19 fraudulent transfers amounting to M18 521 362.67.

The first transfer was made on October 31, 2011 and the last one was made on April 17, 2012. The bulk of the money was first transferred between accounts within the bank before it was funnelled to other banks. Through four transactions the syndicate transferred M12 766 312 from four accounts to an account held with Standard Lesotho Bank. The money was transferred from accounts Iran House, Teya-teyaneng Sub Accountancy and Qacha’s Nek Sub Accountancy.

Its destination was an account held by the Rural Finance and Enterprise, a Ministry of Agriculture project. Once in the Rural Finance and Enterprise’s account the money would then be distributed to various companies through accounts held at FNB and Nedbank. The biggest beneficiaries of the money were KB Construction and KB General Dealer which are owned by Moohlo. In its FNB account KB Construction is alleged to have received a total of M10 354 863 through seven transactions ranging from M153 000 to M4 432 121. KB General Dealers received M1 758 113 through five transactions into its Nedbank account.

Tšosane Transport and Construction Services which is owned by Tšosane allegedly received M2 996 000 through an account at FNB. Shakhane’s company, Shakhane Computer Suppliers, received M1 482 820 through its FNB account.

Storm Enterprises, owned by Pholeli, was given M482 169 through its account at Nedbank. Other accounts that were allegedly looted belonged to the Livestock Department, Phuthiatsana Project, District Development Project, Lesotho Defence Force as well as Irish Aid and Support Programme.

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