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Sole’s in-out-in-and-out

Staff Reporter

MASERU — There was a time when Masupha Sole was a star.
He had entered the civil service in 1972 as a little known engineer.
Those who worked with him say he was a hard worker who would not rest until he had met his targets.
Soon, Sole was promoted to become a senior engineer in the water affairs department.
Big things were about to come his way.
In November 1986 he became chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA).
It was that job that completed his rise but one that also led to his ultimate demise and disgrace.
As prosecutors would reveal in court, Sole started getting bribes from international consultancy firms just two years after his appointment.
It was however not until the mid-1990s when the skeletons in his closet started tumbling out.
In October 1994 he was suspended for corruption and 14 months later he received his marching orders from the LHDA.
What followed was a bruising court battle that left Sole with nothing.
The LHDA successfully sued him to recover the monies it said it had lost through his fraudulent activities.
As a result of the judgment delivered in October 1999 Sole’s three houses were attached and so were his three cars.
His bank accounts were also frozen.
When the battle eventually ended Sole had nothing to his name.
Some however doubt that the LHDA took everything.
His appeal was rejected in April 2001.
Yet even in the face of these serious allegations against him Sole had remained defiant, vehemently professing his innocence.
He said most of the allegations against him were false as he portrayed himself as a victim.
At one time he told a government minister he believed his contribution to the development of this country was not being appreciated.
Someone must have warned him that things were about to get worse.
And sure enough they did.
On June 1, 2001 Sole’s real troubles started.
He appeared in the High Court to face 18 charges, 16 of bribery and two of fraud.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges but as the prosecution started presenting its case against him it became clear that Sole lived large on bribes from consultancy firms that wanted to benefit from the lucrative tenders in the water project.
Sole had several offshore accounts.
He has one with Union Bank of Switzerland which consisted of two US dollar and British sterling pound subaccounts.
This one was opened in 1988.
In October 1989 Sole had opened an account with Banque Multi Commercial in Geneva.
He also had an account with Bancaire Privee in Geneva which had franc and rand subaccounts.
He also had several accounts in Lesotho and South Africa.
The crown said from 1988 to 1998 money flowed from consultancy firms through intermediaries into his offshore accounts.
From there the money would be transferred into his accounts in South Africa and Sole only had to cross the border to pick it up.
The judge found that all in all Sole had received about M5 million in bribes.
He was sentenced to nine years in jail for receiving US$375 000 from the Highlands Water Venture (HWV) the consortium that won the tender to construct Katse Dam.
On the charge that he received GBP20 986 from Sogreah, Cegelec and Coyne the court found Sole guilty and sentenced him to three years.
For receiving US$5 617 and GBP 3 020 from a company called Spie Batignolles Sole got one year.
He got four years for receiving FFR58 654, GBP15 200 and US$17 180 from a company called Lesotho Highland Tunnel Partnership (LHTP).
He got five years for receiving US$91 609 from a company the crown said it had failed to identify.
When the judge finally finished reading his judgment he had found Sole guilty on 13 of the 16 charges he was facing.
In total, Sole had been sentenced to 57 years in jail, a record sentence for anyone who had been convicted of corruption in this country.
Because the sentences were going to run concurrently the judge said Sole was going to spend 18 years behind bars.
On appeal the sentence was reduced to 15 years.
Sole walked to out of prison after serving only eight years and 11 months on May 5.
He slithered out of Maseru and went to his rural home in Qacha’s Nek.
He had paid his dues and he did not need to remain in the “wilderness” for long because someone was planning good things for him.
He was in August appointed chief technical adviser to the Lesotho Highland Water Commission, which runs the same projects that he used to solicit bribes from contractors.
It seemed good times were rolling again for Sole.
But his shining star is about to dim again.
The South African government has made it clear that they are opposed to his appointment.
It remains to be seen if the Lesotho government will stand by its man.
Will it jeopardise the multi-billion maloti project because they insist on employing an ex-convict?
Will they send him packing?
Only time will tell.

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