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Thahane’s corruption trial begins

by Sunday Express
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…former premier Pakalitha Mosisili subpoenaed to testify in the case in which the ex-finance minister is accusing of swindling government of M24 million in 2008  

Tefo Tefo

FORMER Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister, Timothy Thahane’s corruption trial gets underway in the High Court on Tuesday this week.

Dr Thahane is facing two counts of fraud for allegedly swindling the government of over M24 million in 2008 when he was still Minister of Finance and Development Planning.

A source close to the matter yesterday told the Sunday Express the case is set to start on Tuesday as all the necessary court processes had been fulfilled.

“Witnesses, who include former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili have already been subpoenaed to testify in court on Tuesday,” the source said.

The case, which relates to government’s Block Farming Project, went before the High Court for the first time on 12 August 2014 for trial dates to be set.

However, the hearing schedule of 12, 13 and 14 November 2014, which had been suggested by both prosecution and defence counsel, could not be confirmed after Dr Thahane’s lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, told the court the state had refused to give his client the witnesses’ statements.

Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi then ordered the prosecution to provide Dr Thahane’s lawyer with the documents in question, pointing out it was the accused’s right to have such statements.

According to Justice Monaphathi, the prosecution’s reasons for refusing to provide the statements as requested were “vague and not genuine”.

Justice Monaphathi — who made this observation after the prosecution had argued that, if certain documents and statements were released to Dr Thahane, ongoing investigations pertaining two other people the crown had not disclosed might be jeopardized — then postponed the case to 1 September 2014 .

“This reason is ingenious and I don’t accept it. Why don’t you give him photocopies and keep the originals?” Justice Monaphathi said.

“This issue of statements doesn’t make any sense to me. It is not his business if the statements also involve a different case. It is his right to have those statements so that he can prepare for his defence.

“This matter is postponed to 1 September to enable the crown to deliver statements to the accused and that date is only for mention. And on that day, I may end up confirming those dates that have been suggested. At the moment those dates are provisional

However, according to the Sunday Express source, the trial would start on 11 November 2014, and all the hurdles pertaining to the case had since been removed.

Meanwhile, according to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane, on 6 June 2008, allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that then premier, Pakalitha Mosisili and then Minister of Agriculture,  Ralechate ‘Mokose, had endorsed the Block Farming Project for vegetable farmers from 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, worth M6 076 502.68, was payable by the financial institution to the suppliers, Engen Lesotho Limited.

However, the state argues M4.8 million 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 4 November 2013 regarding the case, and was allowed to go home after paying M10 000 bail and M100 000 surety.

The former minister was also ordered to report to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigators every last Friday of the month, as part of the bail conditions.

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