THE Import Car Dealers Association (ICDA) has distanced itself from all clearing and forwarding agencies who have in recent years operated as car dealers.
This comes after Phoka Mofubetsoana of Phoka Clearing and Forwarding Agency recently fled the country after failing to deliver cars to several clients who had already paid for vehicle importation services.
Mr Mofubetsoana’s flight from the country has sparked fears that his clients could lose as much as M1 million they had invested for the procurement of used cars from Japan through the latter’s company.
Last month, Mr Mofubetsoana issued a statement informing his clients that he had decided to temporarily close shop to give himself time to address some threats that were made against his staff.
“One of the major reasons why the management deemed it necessary to close the Maseru office was due to ongoing threats and attacks against staff members by some customers. The decision was therefore necessary to protect lives and property,” Mr Mofubetsoana said in the statement.
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, recently told the Lesotho Times that they were continuing with investigations and Mr Mofubetsoana could be charged with fraud and money laundering.
And this week the President of ICDA, Mohamed Razeen, said they are registered as an association encompassing all car dealers and Mr Mofubetsoana is not one of theirs.
“He is just a clearing agent and it is not right to call him a car dealer. His behavior has impacted negatively on our business as some of our clients have started to question our integrity as car dealers, and unfortunately he is not the only one who has caused such problems,” Mr Razeen said.
He said for one to be a car dealer, they need to be registered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, have a valid tax clearance certificate, have a proper show room, office, shelter for the cars, paving and sign board.
“We have 65 members registered under our association and these are dealers who have met all these requirements.
“Any client paying for a car to any of our dealers should ensure that they pay at the office or to the company bank account as furnished and they should also know that they purchase our cars in the condition that they see them in hence there is no guarantee in the likelihood of a complaint,” Razeen said.
Last month, Mr Mofubetsoana also alleged that he had already alerted the office of the Commissioner of Police about his decision to indefinitely close shop and also assured clients that they would be refunded if he could not secure the cars.
However, Supt Mopeli refuted the claims.
“He (Mr Mofubetsoana) never reported to the police as he said in his statement. What happened is that his dissatisfied clients came to complain and we asked him to report to us as the matter was being investigated.
“When we spoke on the phone, Mr Mofubetsoana said he was on his way to the police as the commissioner had already called him but he never showed up. Instead he told us that he had skipped the country fearing for his life as there were threats to his life,” said Supt Mopeli.
He said clients could have been prejudiced as much as M1million through the failure to deliver the used cars from Japan.
“We are talking of an estimated M950 000 and this could be more because more people are still coming to open cases. Now that he (Mr Mofubetsoana) has fled, he could be charged with fraud and money laundering, but we are still investigating,” Supt Mopeli said.
Mr Mofubetsoana’s legal representative Advocate Sello Tšabela also confirmed that his client had indeed skipped the country in fear for his life.
“I am fully aware that my client has skipped the country and he has issued a statement saying he fears for his life. People should indulge him and be patient in order to allow him to deliver (on the vehicle purchases or refunds) as he has already committed to doing,” Adv Tšabela said.