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Two more charged in M49, 5 million fraud case

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Mohalenyane Phakela

TWO more people have been charged with fraud and money laundering are in connection with the M49 million which is said to have disappeared from government coffers in recent months.

The two are Maqoboto Lepolesa and Fako Molefe. They on Thursday appeared before Chief Magistrate ‘Matankiso Nthunya who released them on M500 bail and M100 000.

They join seven others who have been charged with the crime.

The other seven are Lehlohonolo Selate, Ntseliseng Lawrence, Mookho Rafono, Tlali Mokoaleli, Thabang Nkoe, Hlabathe Phafoli and Thithili Makhesi.

Their bail conditions are that they should attend court remands, refrain from interfering with police investigations and witnesses and stand trial to finality.

According to the charge sheet, the seven defrauded the government of M49 497 972, 72 “by purporting to pay for services rendered to the government whereas it was for their own personal gain”.

“Upon or about the period between October 2020 and September 2021 in the Maseru district, the said accused persons did unlawfully and with the intent to defraud, misrepresent to the Central Bank of Lesotho and the Ministry of Finance.

“The Ministry of Finance had authorised the transfer of M49 497 972,72 from the expenditure account to different companies’ accounts held by Nivana Holdings Pty Ltd, Traggulogy Pty Ltd, Stone Curlew Holdings Pty Ltd, Sunny Penny Pty Ltd, Victorious General Dealer, Moletsima General Dealer, Hazel Nuts General Dealer and Plexus Suppliers Pty Ltd.

“The accused were not the proper and lawful beneficiaries to the said funds and they knew at all material times that they had made representations which were false. By means of the said misrepresentation, the accused persons prejudiced the parties (government and rightful beneficiaries) to the amount of M49 497 972, 72.

“Therefore, the accused persons are guilty of the crimes of fraud and money laundering,” the charge sheet states.

Prominent lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane, was supposed to be joined to the case. This after receiving a M100 000 payment from his client, Selate, who is among the accused. However, Adv Setlojoane’s legal representatives, Salemane Phafane and Qhalehang Letsika argued that he could not be joined to the accused for simply receiving money from a client who is an accused person. He was therefore not charged and granted leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court to stop the state from joining him to the list of accused.

However, this did not stop the police from obtaining a court order to freeze Adv Setlojoane’s Standard Lesotho Bank Account, along with some assets belonging to the other accused persons. He has since launched a High Court application to nullify the 13 October 2021 order which blocked his account. The application is yet to be heard.

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