THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has obtained a preservation order allowing it to seize the assets of seven fraud and money laundering suspects.
The charges against the seven are in connection with the M49 million which is said to have disappeared from government coffers in recent months.
The order was granted on Tuesday by High Court judge Fumane Khabo. This after the anti-graft body had argued that the seven suspects had used the proceeds of their alleged crimes to purchase movable and immovable properties to conceal the money’s origin.
The DCEO further argued that its investigations indicated that the money was laundered to various accounts at the First National Bank in South Africa.
The seven suspects are Lehlohonolo Selate, Ntseliseng Lawrence, Mookho Rafono, Tlali Mokoaleli, Thithili Makhesi, Thabang Nkoe and Hlabathe Phafoli.
According to the charge sheet, the seven defrauded the government of M49 497 972, 72 “by purporting to pay for services rendered to the government whereas it was for their own personal gain”.
“Upon or about the period between October 2020 and September 2021 in the Maseru district, the said accused persons did unlawfully and with the intent to defraud, misrepresent to the Central Bank of Lesotho and the Ministry of Finance.
“The Ministry of Finance had authorised the transfer of M49 497 972,72 from the expenditure account to different companies’ accounts held by Nivana Holdings Pty Ltd, Traggulogy Pty Ltd, Stone Curlew Holdings Pty Ltd, Sunny Penny Pty Ltd, Victorious General Dealer, Moletsima General Dealer, Hazel Nuts General Dealer and Plexus Suppliers Pty Ltd.
“The accused were not the proper and lawful beneficiaries to the said funds and they knew at all material times that they had made representations which were false. By means of the said misrepresentation, the accused persons prejudiced the parties (government and rightful beneficiaries) to the amount of M49 497 972, 72.
“Therefore, the accused persons are guilty of the crimes of fraud and money laundering,” the charge sheet states. The suspects’ trial is before is before Maseru Magistrate Thamae Thamae.
On Tuesday, the DCEO successfully applied to the High Court for a preservation order to seize various assets belonging to the suspects.
“The matter involves almost M50 million belonging to the government of Lesotho which was fraudulently obtained by Lehlohonolo Selate, Bokang Manaka and others. They were assisted by officials in the Ministry of Finance’s Treasury Department, namely Phafoli, Nkoe, to commit a money laundering scheme by using different companies as fronts or shells.
“Having received the monies, they transferred the monies into various accounts which were reported as suspicious and they purchased movable and immovable property to conceal and or disguise the true nature and origin of the monies.
“Investigations further reveal that the said fraudulent payments were transferred to various accounts at the First National Bank in South Africa. The accounts belong to South Africa companies namely, Sunny Penny (Pty) Ltd, Nivana Holding (Pty) Ltd, Traggulogy (Pty) Ltd and Stone Curlew Holdings (Pty) Ltd. They also transferred some of the monies to accounts at Standard Lesotho Bank belonging to Lesotho businesses, namely Plexus (Pty) Ltd, Moletsane General Dealer and Hazel Nut General dealer
“The purpose of the preservation order is to freeze the properties pending the outcome of an application for a forfeiture order in terms of section 97 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (MLPCA),” the DCEO stated in its application.
The seized assets include M200 000 cash held at Boliba Savings and Credit by Ms Lawrence; M179 086 held at Standard Lesotho Bank by lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane; M100 000 held at Standard Lesotho Bank belonging to Plexus Suppliers; M50 000 held at Nedbank Lesotho by Thabo Matlali; M43 000 held at Standard Lesotho Bank by Montessori International School and M40 000 held at FNB Lesotho by Mojalefa Rafono.
Other seized assets are a Hyundai Station Wagon vehicle, a VW Polo, a 2004 Honda Elysion, a 2006 Honda Elysion, an Audio A7 Quadro S Line, an Audi A4 Hatchback, an OPPO Mobile phone, an iPad 32G and immovable property situated at Thetsane.