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Thahane to know fate


Tefo Tefo

Former Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister, Timothy Thahane
Former Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister, Timothy Thahane

HIGH Court judge Justice Molefi Makara will tomorrow decide whether or not to accept documents the prosecution attached in its written submissions in a fraud case against former Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs minister, Timothy Thahane.

Dr Thahane, suspended Finance Ministry’s Principal Secretary Mosito Khethisa and the director of Civa Innovations (Proprietary) Limited company, Mokhethi Moshoeshoe are on trial for allegedly defrauding government of M19 million in 2010.

The prosecution last month filed an application seeking the court’s order postponing the trial on the grounds it wanted to bring more evidence from South Africa.

However, when the application to postpone the case was supposed to proceed on Tuesday, the case was again moved to Thursday to allow the prosecution time to submit its written submissions.

But in a new turn of events, defence lawyers Advocates Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Christo Van Schalkwyk, on Thursday argued the prosecution’s written submissions, legally known as heads-of-argument, should not be accepted because they were “irregular”.

Advocate Ntsebeza argued: “It is our submission that the annexures attached to the prosecution’s heads-of-argument are irregular to the extent that they seek to bring new evidence in support of the application before court.

“The prosecution cannot seek to bring fresh evidence through the back door.

“Even if these annexures were brought during the prosecution’s relying stage, it would still be improper because one cannot make his case on the reply.

“The case is made on the founding papers.”

However, Advocate Guido Penzhorn, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the state, said his papers were all in order.

Justice Makara then postponed the case to Monday when a ruling on the submissions is to be made.

Meanwhile, charges against Dr Thahane and his co-accused revolve around a contract awarded to Civa Innovations on 29 April 2010 by government, for a wool and mohair project, allegedly in contravention of the country’s procurement regulations.

Mr Khethisa—who was suspended in April last year after being charged in a different fraud case—and Mr Moshoeshoe, first appeared in the Magistrate’s Court in October 2013.

Dr Thahane later joined the case as he was not present when the case was first remanded on that day.

According to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane and his co-accused are facing two counts— fraud and bribery.

The fraud charge reads: “On or about the 29 April 2010 or thereafter in the district of Maseru, the accused, sharing a common purpose, unlawfully, deliberately and with the intent to defraud, represented to the government of Lesotho or the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning that an agreement entered into between the Ministry and Accused Three (Civa Innovations Management {Proprietary} Limited) on 29 April 2010 in respect of Wool & Mohair Product Development, complied with Public Procurement Regulations of 2007. This was done with the intention that the ministry should act upon the said misrepresentation to its prejudice and to the prejudice of the government of Lesotho, by paying to the accused three sums totaling M8 379 070.50; M9 772 000.00 and M915 596.85 and did thus commit the crime of fraud.”

On bribery, the charge sheet reads: “On a date unknown to the Crown but before 29 April 2010, Accused Three (the company) and Four (company director Mr Moshoeshoe) corruptly offered a consideration to Accused One (Thahane) and Two (Khethisa), who corruptly agreed to accept such consideration in return for action in their official capacities as public officials—Accused One in his capacity as Minister of Finance and Development Planning and Accused Two as Principal Secretary.

“Such action by Accused One and Two was facilitating a contract between the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, on the one hand, and Accused Three on the other, on 29 April 2010, in respect of Wool and Mohair Product Development. Such consideration was in the form of a share in the proceeds of funds received by Accused Three in respect of such contract.”

Meanwhile, Dr Thahane also stands trial for a different case in which he is facing a charge of fraud.

In this case, he is charged with allegedly defrauding the Lesotho government of over M24 million in respect of the Block Farming Project, seven years ago when he was still the Minister of Finance and Development Planning before moving to Energy in 2012.

According to the charge sheet, on 6 June 2008, Dr Thahane allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that then Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili and then Minister of Agriculture, Ralechate ‘Mokose, had endorsed the Block Farming project for vegetable farmers at Temo-‘Moho, Mpharane Agricultural Association of Leribe, resulting in government losing M18 092 587.50.

The second count relates to Dr Thahane’s alleged misrepresentation to Standard Lesotho Bank that fuel supplied to Temo-‘Moho, totaling M6 076 502.68, was payable by the Bank to the suppliers, Engen Lesotho Limited.

However, the state argues M4.8million had already been paid out to Temo-‘Moho by individual farmers and Dr Thahane was aware of this.

Dr Thahane made his first appearance in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on November 4 2013 and was allowed to go home after paying M10 000 bail and M100 000 surety.

He was also ordered to report to Directorate On Corruption and Economic Offences investigators every last Friday of the month, as part of his bail conditions.


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