MASERU — Another top representative to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) is facing jail for alleged corruption, forgery, fraud and theft.
The commission oversees the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) which is co-owned by Lesotho and South Africa and is implemented by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA).
Sixtus Tohlang, who replaced disgraced convict Reatile Mochebelele as Lesotho’s chief delegate to the LHWC, appeared in the magistrate’s court last Friday accused of using fraudulent tax documents to register a luxurious vehicle he bought in South Africa in 2003.
Although Tohlang’s troubles have nothing to do with his work as a chief delegate the fact that he is facing trial makes him the third top LHWP official to have a brush with the law.
Reatile Mochebelele, his predecessor, is currently holed up in South Africa fending off Lesotho’s extradition efforts to bring him to serve the 10-year jail term he received when he was convicted of taking bribes from a German company that had contracts with the LHWC during the construction of Katse Dam.
He is currently seeking political asylum in South Africa to avoid being sent back to Lesotho.
Letlafuoa Molapo, who was Mochebeblele’s deputy in the project, is currently doing time at Maseru Central Prison after he was also found guilty of taking bribes from the same company.
Tohlang was appointed chief delegate in 2002.
He is charged under the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act of 2005, Sales Tax Act of 1995 and Road Traffic Act of 1981.
The prosecution says Tohlang used forged documents to register the vehicle he bought for over M500 000 from South Africa seven years ago.
In the charge sheet the prosecution says in February 2003 Tohlang bought a Mercedes Benz vehicle from Pristine Motors alias Muzdalifah Investment cc in the Republic of South Africa for a sum of M569 000.
It says when he brought the vehicle into the country he did not declare it to the customs officers at the port of entry.
Tohlang did not pay the value-added tax as required by the law, the prosecution alleges.
It is alleged that the vehicle remained unregistered until October 2005 when Tohlang used forged papers to register it.
“In order to have the motor vehicle registered and licensed the accused used forged, false and fraudulent LRA (Lesotho Revenue Authority) documents purporting that the motor vehicle was cleared for customs and tax purposes and that value-added tax in the sum of sixty thousand maloti (M60 000) in respect of the motor vehicle was paid to the Lesotho Revenue Authority,” the charge sheet says.
“The forged and fraudulent LRA documents were presented to the registering authority in Lesotho in applying and obtaining registration and licence of the motor vehicle which was ultimately allocated registration number A8050.”
In the first corruption charge the prosecution says “during or about March 2003 and at or near Maseru city in the district of Maseru the accused did wrongfully and unlawfully cheat the public revenue, to wit, the Lesotho Revenue Authority through his fraudulent conduct by failing to pay sales tax in the sum of M56 900 in respect of his imported motor vehicle Mercedes Benz bearing registration number A8050 thereby depriving the public revenue of money to which it was entitled”.
The prosecution further says “during or about October 2005 the accused obtained registration and licencing of his motor vehicle, Mercedes Benz registration number A8050 through use of forged, false and fraudulent LRA documents purporting that value added tax in the sum of M60 000 had been paid to the Lesotho Revenue Authority for the aforesaid motor vehicle, while in fact, tax in respect of this motor vehicle had not been paid and remains unpaid, thereby depriving the public revenue of the money to which it is entitled.”
He is also charged with forgery “in that the accused on or about the 6th September 2005 and at or near Maseru city in the district of Maseru did unlawfully, falsely and with intent to defraud and to the prejudice or potential prejudice of the Lesotho Revenue Authority or the government of Lesotho design, draw, manufacture and/ or produce a false LRA receipt number 0054447 and wrote or caused to be written a false information therein that he had paid the value added tax in the sum of M60 000 to the Lesotho Revenue Authority as tax in respect of the aforementioned motor vehicle.”
Tohlang is further charged with theft for allegedly stealing VAT and customs clearance forms at LRA head office and at LRA’s offices at Maseru Bridge on September 6, 2005.
He also faces alternative charges of “uttering” in that on or about September 6, 2005 he “unlawfully, and with intent to defraud to the actual or potential prejudice to the Lesotho Revenue Authority and the government of Lesotho, offer, utter and pass off forged documents, to wit, LRA receipt number 0054447, VAT 11 form of serial number 014536 and Customs Clearance Form CE 11 number 65764 to government officials responsible for the registration and licensing of motor vehicles through one Monkhe Mokhele who was unaware that they were forged documents.
“When he so offered, uttered and passed off the aforesaid documents, the accused (Tohlang) knew that they were forged documents.”
Tohlang is now on M1 000 bail after he first appeared in the magistrate’s court last month.
The prosecution and Tohlang’s lawyers will appear in the magistrate’s court next month to fix a date for the hearing of the case.