News Without Fear or Favour

Explosive claims as Majoro and Mahao fingered in massive corruption claims

 

Mohalenyane Phakela

EMBATTLED Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) director general, Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, has set the cat among the pigeons by sensationally accusing Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao and retired Judge Teboho Moiloa of various acts of corruption.

Adv Manyokole alleges that among other things, Dr Majoro and Justice Moiloa are the subject of separate money laundering investigations while Prof Mahao has attempted to pressure him to dig up any dirt against Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing which could be used to prosecute them for unspecified crimes.

He also alleges that Prof Mahao has also attempted to pressure him into investigating High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar Adv ‘Mathato Sekoai for possible corruption. Adv Sekoai and Prof Mahao do not see eye to eye after they clashed late last year over the former’s support for moves by Attorney General Haae Phoofolo and former Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase to appoint five new judges to the High Court without consulting fellow members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Prof Mahao himself.

Adv Manyokole’s explosive allegations are contained in his latest High Court papers filed last Friday challenging the premier’s move to oust him. The case will be heard today by Justice Moroke Mokhesi. (See 

Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao’s alleged acts of corruption- according to Adv Manyokole- are the real reasons why the duo is hell-bent on removing him from office and appointing a pliant replacement who will shield them from investigation and possible prosecution.

Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao last week launched a fresh bid to fire Adv Manyokole.

Dr Majoro set up a three-member tribunal to determine Adv Manyokole’s fitness to hold office while Prof Mahao issued a fresh “show-cause” letter asking Adv Manyokole to justify why he should not be suspended while the tribunal probes him.

Adv Manyokole faces a litany of accusations including that he is incompetent, corrupt and has abused his office to shield criminals from prosecution.  The DCEO boss refutes the allegations instead labelling premier Majoro and Prof Mahao themselves as the main “crusaders of corruption”.

Adv Manyokole had appeared to be off the hook three weeks ago after Prof Mahao withdrew his first “show cause” letter in which he had sought to suspend the DCEO boss. This after an out of court settlement with Adv Manyokole after the latter had gone to court to interdict his suspension. It is not clear what had prompted Prof Mahao to agree to an out of court settlement and withdraw his initial “show cause” letter.

Adv Manyokole’s lawyer, Tekane Maqakachane, had informed High Court Judge Justice Molefi Makara that they would finalise negotiations for an out of court settlement with Prof Mahao to be presented before the judge and made an order of court. That all has now proven to be a false dawn for Adv Manyokole as Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao have renewed their bid to oust him from office.

Adv Manyokole will now be probed by a three-member tribunal comprising of High Court Judge Polo Banyane and retired judges Moiloa and Semapo Peete.

During the earlier bid to oust him, Adv Manyokole had accused Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao of seeking to fire him to protect “corrupt” government officials and others from being investigated and prosecuted. He then labelled the duo as “crusaders of corruption”.

He made the allegations without specifying the exact nature of the premier and Prof Mahao’s alleged corrupt activities.

He had begged the court’s permission not to disclose the specific details, saying this was a highly sensitive matter.

But in the latest turn of events, the DCEO boss has now decided to go for the jugular in his desperate quest to save his job. This after he categorically made the damning allegations against Dr Majoro, Prof Mahao and others in his latest court application.

Dr Majoro, Prof Mahao, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, Attorney General Haae Phoofolo, the Tribunal on the removal of director general of the DCEO, Justices Moiloa, Peete and Banyane are first to eighth respondents respectively in Adv Manyokole’s fresh application.

Adv Manyokole also alleges that Justice Moiloa is unfit to chair the tribunal probing his fitness or lack of it to remain as DCEO boss because the former judge is also being investigated for corruption and money laundering.

In his founding affidavit, Adv Manyokole states that the DCEO’s investigative net was “cast wide and drew in its mighty pool, crusaders and proponents of corruption and economic offences” who have for a long time considered themselves to be beyond the DCEO’s reach.

“My stance against corruption created a sense of uneasiness particularly amongst the politicians, some cabinet and government bureaucrats and other private individuals,” Adv Manyokole states in his application.

“I must disclose that even high-ranking officials in the present administration (whose names I pray not to disclose, unless I will be compelled to do so) are under the investigation by the DCEO for corruption and economic offences. A number of cases involving government officials and private persons have been instituted in the courts and other preparatory efforts have been made to put them before the courts, while others are before the Director of Public Prosecutions (Adv Hlalefang Motinyane) for statutory consent to prosecute.

“It is these investigations which have touched the nerve centre and cradle of the dark world of corruption. The political machinery started rolling in an attempt to protect the underhand activities and to ensure that the dark world of the corrupt is not disrupted. Consequently, moves have been made to have me removed from the helm of the DCEO. I am in possession of secret information and intelligence (which I beg leave of court not to disclose as the matters related are sensitive and privileged issues) that some of those who are basking in the comfort of the nefarious criminality have suggested to the government that all means must be adopted and employed to ensure my removal from the office of the DCEO.”

Adv Manyokole goes on to claim that he received intelligence that Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao “are bent towards ensuring that I am removed from the office” and “are making all preparations and strategies to ensure that the goal is achieved”.

He alleges that in his bid to protect himself from the money laundering investigations, Dr Majoro has even gone as far as burning the midnight candle in secret meetings with the director general of the National Security Services, Pheello Ralenkoane, and one Mr Likotsi, a DCEO investigator.

“I aver that this information is critical and also forms the necessary backdrop for understanding of the attitudes and stance taken by the first and second respondents (Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao respectively) in resolving to have me removed from the helm of the DCEO.

“Whenever officers of the DCEO face censure or stern disciplinary action from me, they always run to the second respondent (Prof Mahao) for intervention.

“One instance related to Mr Likotsi who is the DCEO investigator in a case of money laundering involving the first respondent (Dr Majoro). He (Likotsi) was seen having night meetings with the first respondent and the director general of the National Security Services. Upon my reaction to his (Likotsi’s) secret meetings with the suspect (Majoro), the second respondent (Mahao) reacted by accusing me of abusing my powers when I took disciplinary measures against Mr Likotsi.

“I wrote back to inform the second respondent that he had no power to interfere with my duties. I never heard from the second respondent since that day when I rebuked him about his interference with my authority.

“I carried investigations on a corruption case against Lesotho Stone Company and closed the mining activity of that company. The second respondent (Mahao) called me to tell me he was disappointed because he had one of his nephews working at Lesotho Stone. When I made a report regarding the closure of Lesotho Stone to the first respondent (Majoro), he was also beside himself with anger and advised that I should first contact him and let him know first before doing things.

“I had known that one minister who is close to the first respondent (Majoro) was implicated in the corruption involving Lesotho Stone and the first respondent would feel very uncomfortable about the investigations and closure of the company’s mining activity, hence my not informing him.

“I had begun the investigations on Victoria Hotel where I established that a number of politicians, including the first respondent (Majoro) were involved in a corrupt scheme. At the time of the commission of the offence, the investigations reveal that the first respondent was the principal secretary of the Ministry of Finance. The DCEO obtained a preservation order against the corrupt scheme and this tremendously did not please or sit well with the first respondent. Mr Likotsi, the Victoria Hotel case investigator, was lured to attend secret meetings with the first respondent and I texted the first respondent expressing my displeasure at the turn of events. I informed the second respondent (Mahao) about the incident but he showed no interest in the matter.”

Adv Manyokole also states that he had advised Dr Majoro that he had illegally established the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) to spearhead the country’s fight against the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19).

He says he also warned the premier that the NACOSEC was involved in corrupt activities. Despite his warnings, he says Dr Majoro ignored him and instead continued to operate the NACOSEC illegally.

“I wrote to the first respondent about NACOSEC and provided him with the legal opinion that it was illegally established and it was a conduit for corruption and misappropriation of public funds. Based on the legal advice and my position against NACOSEC, Mr (Thabo) Khasipe, whom the first respondent had appointed as the chief executive officer, immediately resigned. The first respondent was beside himself with anger at my legal opinion as well as my recommendation that it is the Disaster Management Authority that had to deal with Covid-19 and not the illegally constituted NACOSEC.

“Nonetheless, the first respondent simply ignored my advice and directive and continued to appoint Dr (‘Malitaba) Litaba as the new (NACOSEC) CEO and to hold meetings with NACOSEC despite my directive. The NACOSEC is now involved in a lot of corrupt activities in terms of procurement and hiring of staff especially with salaries that are outside the prescribed salaries for public servants. I also got a report from the Auditor General’s office which confirmed the allegations of misuse of public funds by NACOSEC under the prime minister’s office. I have certainly become a nuisance to the first respondent concerning the NACOSEC.

“There are a number of corruption cases involving the first respondent, some halted by reason of non-cooperation of the witnesses and the other has been referred to the DPP on 29 December 2020 for consent of the DPP to prosecute,” Adv Manyokole states.

The DCEO boss also alleges that Prof Mahao tried to use the DCEO to advance his own political agenda by pressuring him to prosecute Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.

The duo stands accused of treason against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The treason case is in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Mr Thabane.

Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Mr Mochoboroane was communications minister and LCD secretary general.

They were set to stand trial alongside former army commander, Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

However, the trial which was supposed to have started on 25 February 2020, has been stalled by several court challenges by Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane who insist that clause 10 of a 2018 SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement binds Lesotho to stop all trials of politicians at least until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms recommended by the regional body in 2016.

In his court papers, Adv Manyokole states that Prof Mahao tried to pressure him into prosecuting Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane. He does not say what exactly Prof Mahao wanted him to prosecute the duo for since the DCEO can only prosecute suspects for economic crimes and not treason and other non-economic crimes.

“During the so-called clause 10 fight in the treason trial of Mr Metsing and Mr Mochoboroane, the second respondent (Mahao) called me to his office where he inquired about the case of Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane and wanted me to prosecute them. I then told him that DCEO has insufficient evidence on Mr Mochoboroane but that relating to Mr Metsing was still under consideration by the DPP. I did not yield to second respondent’s pressure who sought to have Mochoboroane prosecuted for political reasons using my office.  This too angered the second respondent.”

Adv Manyokole also alleges that Prof Mahao also attempted to pressure him into investigating High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar Adv Sekoai for possible corruption.

“By end of October 2020, the second respondent instructed me to investigate the Registrar of High Court and Court of Appeal, Adv Sekoai. This was at the time when the second respondent and members of the Judicial Service Commission were fighting over the appointment of five new judges, a matter that attracted public attention. My investigations revealed nothing of corruption or abuse of power concerning Adv Sekoai. I submitted the report to second respondent and I could tell he did not like my findings. After I gave a written report to second respondent, I never got any phone calls from him anymore and I knew he was disappointed.”

The DCEO boss further alleges that in their desperation to save themselves and others from investigation and possible prosecution, Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao want to replace him with suspended DCEO Chief Investigator Thabiso Thibeli who will then supress investigations into their alleged impropriety.

Shortly after being appointed DCEO boss by then Prime Minister Thabane in July 2019, Adv Manyokole suspended Mr Thibeli on various misconduct charges.

He alleges that since then, he has been under pressure from Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao to reinstate Mr Thibeli.

“The above factors, stated not necessarily in their chronological order, account for the reasons why I have lost favour with the first and second respondents and why according to them, I should be suspended and then removed from the office of the director general of the DCEO to be replaced by Mr Thibeli so as to allow the DCEO fight and other battles of those at the receiving end of the investigatory net of the DCEO.

“The establishment of the tribunal to investigate the question of my removal from the office of the director general of the DCEO is a simple non-impregnable façade behind which the real intentions are to clearly remove me as an obstacle in the pursuit of corrupt agenda and objectives.”

The embattled DCEO boss also alleges that Justice Moiloa is unfit to head the tribunal investigating his fitness to remain at the helm of the anti-graft body because the retired judge is himself being investigated for benefiting from the alleged proceeds of crime involving the former Standard Lesotho Bank CEO, Mpho Vumbukani, as well as former Finance Ministry PS Mosito Khethisa.

“The DCEO is investigating a case involving former Standard Lesotho Bank CEO, Mr Mpho Vumbukani. According to the investigations, Mr Vumbukani sold himself a house belonging to Standard Lesotho Bank with the approval of the Standard Lesotho Bank board and in turn sublet the same house to Standard Lesotho Bank with the approval of the same board. At the material time, Justice Moiloa chaired the said board and himself signed the necessary documentation for the decisions and the transactions.

“Furthermore, Justice Moiloa’s law firm, Webber Newdigate, was getting briefs from Standard Lesotho Bank. The investigations reveal that through collusion, members of the board got similar benefits from Mr Vumbukani who was very close to Justice Moiloa.

“Another case involves Mr Khethisa, the former Finance PS. Investigations reveal that Mr Khethisa paid legal fees to Webber Newdigate for his personal benefit with government funds and Justice Moiloa also benefitted as partner in Webber Newdigate. He (Moiloa) is implicated in the money laundering case which is still being investigated by the DCEO,” Adv Manyokole states.

It remains to be seen how Dr Majoro and others will respond to the explosive allegations.  This is not the first time serious criminal allegations have been made against a sitting prime minister by a head of a statutory body.

About this time last year, then Prime Minister Thabane was sensationally accused by Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli of plotting the latter’s ouster to stop investigations into his alleged key role in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

Mr Thabane who was forced by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to step down in favour of Dr Majoro, is yet to appear in court over the murder charges. Some ABC and government sources have alleged that Dr Majoro was pressured by Mr Thabane’s ABC allies to ensure that the police and DPP’s office do not continue with the case or they will bring down the government through a no confidence vote in parliament.

 

 

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