DCEO seizes suspects’ properties worth M41m
MASERU – THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has seized properties worth M41 million from ten suspects accused of looting M50 million from the government.
The properties include houses, land and cars. The suspects’ bank accounts in South Africa and Lesotho have also been frozen.
Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli said apart from the recovery effort, they are also pursuing more suspects involved in the fraud allegedly masterminded by officials at the Ministry of Finance’s treasury department.
“It (the money) was stolen through corruption. They took it through their companies, including non-existent companies,” Commissioner Molibeli said at a press conference this week.
The scam was discovered three months ago during a staff reshuffle at the treasury department.
A subsequent internal audit and investigation later revealed that the syndicate of employees in the department had been spiriting the money away by making dubious payments to both real and fake companies in Lesotho and South Africa.
Nine suspects have been charged with fraud and are out on bail.
Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, accused of receiving a payment from a suspect who is his client, appeared in court but has filed an urgent application in the Constitutional Court.
Advocate Setlojoane and his legal team want the Constitutional Court to decide if a lawyer can be charged for receiving legal fees from a suspect accused of fraud and corruption.
The hunt for the suspects’ assets involves the DCEO, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA), and the police.
Senior Superintendent Piti Khutlang said they recovered M37.9 million worth of sites and houses in South Africa and Lesotho. They have also impounded vehicles worth M3.9 million.
The police have not specified the exact location of the properties.
“South African lawyers were used to buy those properties but they are now being seized,” Senior Superintendent Khutlang said. “We are yet to make more arrests and recover more and more assets.”
It is said there are also accounts with Standard Lesotho Bank belonging to Lesotho businesses, Plexus (Pty) Ltd, Moletsima General Dealer and Hazel Nut General Dealer.
An officer from the police’s fraud department is also in hot water for allegedly colluding with the syndicate.
The officer, who has since been asked to explain why he should not face a disciplinary hearing, is alleged to have joined the looting scheme instead of investigating the matter.
Last Tuesday, the DCEO was granted a court order to seize the properties and freeze bank accounts.
In an urgent application moved without hearing the other side (ex parte) the DCEO said the police investigations have revealed that “the fraudulent payments were transferred to various accounts in the FNB in South Africa’’.
“The accounts belong to South African companies namely, Sunny Penny (Pty) Ltd, Nivana Holding (Pty) Ltd, Traggulogy (Pty) Ltd, and Stone Curlew Holdings (Pty) Ltd,” the court papers read.
Staff Reporter
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