Businessman denies stealing diamonds

MASERU — Peter Mosebo, the businessman accused of stealing 1 000 diamond carats, says the allegations against him are lies meant to mask corporate malfeasance committed by the South African firm.

A fortnight ago Thabex Limited, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed firm, claimed that Mosebo and Cornelius Engelbretch were in charge of the Kolo Kimberlite project when 1 000 diamond carats went missing.

Mosebo and Engelbretch are directors of Angel Diamonds, a Lesotho registered firm that is now at the centre of a nasty shareholding dispute.

Thabex claims to own 60 percent of the company which Mosebo is now pushing to liquidate.

Thabex alleges that Mosebo and Engelbretch stole the diamonds and has since reported the matter to the Lesotho police.

It has also alerted Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to the alleged theft.

But in an interview last week Mosebo, a clergyman for Saint Elia Apostolic Faith Mission in Maseru, said Thabex has “cooked up” the allegations to tarnish his reputation and “cover up its corrupt activities”.

Mosebo said it is in fact Thabex that “tampered” with those diamonds after some of them were confiscated by a South African diamond trader it owed.

He said the diamond carats were never 1 000 as Thabex claimed but 937.01 and were valued at USD62 227 (M497 816).

These diamonds, Mosebo said, were legally exported to South Africa by Thabex which gave them to Lion Diamonds (Pty) Ltd, a licensed diamond dealer, to sell.

Mosebo said Lion Diamonds then told Thabex that the price of diamonds on the world market at the time was too low for them to make a decent profit.

Lions Diamonds then gave back the diamonds to Thabex but withheld some of them because Thabex owed it M100 000 from a previous transaction, according to Masebo.

“Lions Diamonds said they will hang on to some of the diamonds until Thabex paid its debt.”

Mosebo said they were however shocked that despite the fact that Lions had confiscated some of the diamonds Thabex still brought back to Lesotho the same weight and carats it had tried to export.

“Despite that Lion Diamonds withheld some diamonds those that Thabex brought back to us still weighed 937.01 carats. We have documented evidence from the office of commissioner of mines that the value of the diamonds were still the same when weighed,” said Masebo.

“We later discovered that some of the returned diamonds were not part of those that were exported to South Africa and Thabex has to this day not told us where they got them,” he said.

Mosebo said Thabex did not tell them that some of the diamonds were withheld at Lion Diamonds until they were confronted.

“They intended to give us an impression that our diamonds still weighed at 937.01 carats so that they could steal those kept by Lion Diamonds after they have paid their debt.”

Mosebo said it was not the first time that Thabex showed “dishonesty in diamond exports”.

He said previously the company director, Marius Welthagen, exported 332.23 carats to South Africa but failed to declare them to the Lesotho authorities.

“The commissioner of mines had valued the diamonds at USD45 000 (approximately M360 000) and once exported and sold the Lesotho tax authorities were entitled to about M52 858 which Welthagen avoided to pay,” said Mosebo, who now plans to sue Thabex for defamation.

“Welthagen exported and sold those diamonds without our knowledge and consent,” he said.

“We only knew it later when we made enquiries.” Mosebo said he believed that Thabex were “making up stories” that he is one of the Angel Diamond shareholders that have decided to “fight what is rightfully theirs”.

He claimed that the battle started when Thabex failed to deliver on its promises to invest M65 million to Angel Diamond for the prospecting operations and acquisition of the mining lease for the Kolo Kimberlite project.

“I applied to the High Court seeking Thabex to be forced to fulfill its promises and when it opposed the application, we raised money, left Angel Diamonds and registered a new company — Reskol Diamond Mining (Pty) Ltd,” Mosebo said.

He said Reskol paid all Angel Diamonds debts. “Reskol did the job that was supposed to be done by Thabex and we felt that it qualified to take over,” he said. Mosebo said Angel Diamonds had given Thabex 60 percent of shares but when it failed to deliver they took back the shares and allocated them to Reskol.

At the same time they applied for the liquidation of Angel Diamonds, which Thabex opposed.

Opposition to Angel Diamonds’ liquidation has given birth to 10 applications and counter-applications that are pending in the High Court.

If Thabex wins the case against Angel Diamonds’ liquidation and awarding of the Kolo Kimberlite mining lease to Reskol, it will still be liable to pay the debts incurred during prospecting as well as fulfilling the promise to invest M65 million into Angel Diamonds, Mosebo said.

A company that was engaged to operate during prospecting, Mantle Diamonds, has also lodged a claim against Thabex for losses incurred during the diamond exploration at Kolo Kimberlite.

Mosebo said Thabex will be liable to pay M1 million in debts. “They failed to pay almost all costs and I do not know how they are planning to pay if they succeed in these cases,” he said.

South African online publication Mining Weekly, reported in October that Thabex, which revised its full-year loss to M3.63-million from M2.93-million, said its liabilities exceeded its current assets by M6.61 million.

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