MASERU — A Pakistani businessman whose case of trying to smuggle over M350 000 cash from Lesotho has been dragging in courts for eight years has been told that he will finally get justice.
Chief Magistrate ’Matankiso Nthunya has promised Muhammad Sohail that his case was being postponed for the last time on Tuesday when she postponed it to October 22 to 23.
Sohail who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, has come to Lesotho 56 times over the past eight years to attend this case.
He was arrested in March 2005 at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle M353 700 in hard cash in contravention of the Exchange Control Regulations.
According to the regulations, he was supposed to seek permission from the Finance Minister to take the bank notes out of the country.
The regulations also say any person leaving Lesotho should declare any gold, local bank-notes currency and securities at the exit point.
At the airport, Sohail allegedly failed to declare whether he had any bank notes, gold, securities or foreign currencies.
Sohail was arrested by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigators and his case was brought to the magistrates’ court within two days.
Since then he has been coming to court only for his case to be postponed.
He was asked to plead for the first time on Tuesday after eight years of coming to court several times, and he pleaded not guilty.
Dressed in a black suit, Sohail stood in the dock and interrupted his lawyer Advocate Paul Loubser and complained bitterly to Nthunya that it was unfair that he had been coming to court without getting any trial.
Sohail said as a businessman it is not good for him to leave his businesses to come to court only to have his case postponed.
He said nobody is looking after his businesses while he is in court.
“I am tired of travelling here and losing business,” Sohail said, adding that only when he got here he got excuses and postponements.
“I have never been absent, I come here they see my face,” he said.
“I have never robbed any bank.”
The crown counsel Advocate Sefako Seema told the court that the crown witness who was supposed to give evidence was in court but had to rush home after getting the message that his sister had just died.
Defence lawyer Loubser lamented that his client had been making 56 visits to Lesotho to attend remands for eight years.
“I wish to oppose any notion of postponement,” Loubser said.
Loubser pointed out that as the crown had said, the first crown witness was going to give evidence of a general nature not implicating Sohail directly.
He suggested that the crown should go and make a statement of facts which can be handed in as evidence.
Loubser said this would avoid unnecessary postponement.
He pointed out that the case was set to continue on Tuesday for plea and trial.
“I could not understand why the crown could not have made arrangements for other witnesses,” he said.
But the crown amongst other things pointed out that it had informed the defence that it had to put oral evidence to rebut some of the things Sohail had said in his statement.
Seema said even if the witnesses were all here, the case would not be finished the same day.
Seema said Sohail has himself to blame for the delays.