Detective flees

MASERU — An investigator with the anti-corruption unit has fled the country following death threats, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Abiel Monare, an investigator with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), fled the country last Wednesday.

He skipped the country around noon, with only a small bag, a blazer and his phones.

Sources in the DCEO said Monare fled after he allegedly received death threats from some police officers.

The sources said the threats could be connected to some of the cases Monare had been investigating.

Monare is now hiding somewhere in South Africa.

He confirmed he had gone into hiding but did not want to go public about his troubles due to security and professional reasons.

“All I can say for now is that I have fled the country because my life is in danger. Beyond that I cannot say anything,” Monare said on Tuesday this week.

This paper can however reveal that Monare was investigating four senior government officials in connection with human trafficking involving Chinese nationals.

The case involves a government minister, two principal secretaries and a deputy principal secretary who are suspected to be operating a human trafficking syndicate.

The Lesotho Times has withheld their names because investigations are still in progress and the paper is yet to gather enough evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The investigation started in July last year after a group of 26 Chinese nationals landed at the Moshoeshoe I Airport with questionable travel documents.

The group which had chartered a plane from Mozambique was deported after being detained at the airport for nearly two days.

The DCEO suspected that they were either being trafficked into Lesotho or were using the country as a corridor into South Africa.

The four senior government officials were immediately listed as suspects together with two other Chinese nationals based in Lesotho.

Some officials in Lesotho’s Embassy in China were also named as potential suspects. As part of the scheme the victims would be given Lesotho passports to make it easier for them to enter South Africa and the rest of the world.

Others would be used as prostitutes in Lesotho.

This paper knows the hotel from which the alleged sex slaves are said to be operating.

On August 13 last year Monare and his immediate boss, senior investigator Thabiso Thibeli, and a senior police officer called Senooe left for China.

They arrived in Beijing on the following day and started their investigation.

And by the time they left Beijing on August 25 they had interviewed officials at the embassy and seized boxes of documents related to visa applications.

They also interviewed a man called Niu Kang who is alleged to have confirmed that he was an agent of “senior people in Lesotho”.

Kang is also said to have confessed to being paid M58 000 for every Chinese national he delivered to Lesotho.

The day before Monare and his colleagues left for China the DCEO had arrested a Butha-Buthe based Chinese businessman identified only as Aping.

Aping had been arrested because he was suspected to be part of the human trafficking syndicate but he was released a few hours later under suspicious circumstances.

The DCEO also suspected that the embassy officials, the four government officials and Aping were working with a Maseru-based Chinese national called Shen Jun.

But when they went to his home in Hillsview they were told that Jun who is well-known as Pang-Pang (The Fat One) had vanished.  It is suspected that he is now holed up in Johannesburg.

Sources in the DCEO this week said although the investigation into the case has been completed no charges have been preferred against the four government officials and their alleged accomplices.

Around the time he was investigating the human trafficking case Monare also launched a probe into the Ministry of Finance’s Wool and Mohair project.

Civa Innovations Management, a company whose core business is to organise accommodation for Basotho students in South Africa, was awarded a tender to help run the project.

Civa is a South African company that is registered in Lesotho as a foreign firm.

The incongruence between the company’s core business and the nature of the contract it had been awarded is said to have triggered the DCEO’s investigation.

Monare was appointed the lead investigator for that case. The DCEO suspects that the project could have been a front to siphon money from the government.

Queries have also been raised as to why the project is being run by the Ministry of Finance when it is related to agriculture.

Earlier this year the DCEO went to the Wool and Mohair Project offices at the Finance Ministry to seize some documents and computer hard drives.

They also raided Civa’s offices in the Maseru Industrial Area. An analysis of the company’s bank accounts has shown that some of the money from the Wool and Mohair project is being used to pay salaries for staff at a restaurant in Maseru.

This paper has not seen concrete evidence proving that the project was being used to steal money from government.

Monare was also a member of the DCEO team that was investigating a Ministry of Finance official who was said to have looted from the Old Age Pension Scheme.

The woman who was based at the Mohale’s Hoek post office before she was transferred to Maseru is suspected to have siphoned millions from the scheme.

That money, the DCEO suspected, had been used to build a mansion and create a substantial property portfolio.

During the same period Monare was also investigating a Finance Ministry official who has bought four 4×4 twincab vehicles.  The size of the purchase had raised suspicions that the officials could have been involved in some corrupt activities.

Before he left the country Monare told his colleagues at the DCEO that his life was under threat.

Two of his colleagues have confirmed that Monare indeed told him about the threats before he fled the country.

This paper also understands that Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla who is also the Minister of Home Affairs has been informed about the threats.

Acting Police Commission Kizito Mhlakaza has also been briefed and the army’s intelligence unit is said to have been tasked to provide him with security. Last night the army said it knew nothing about Munare’s issue.

Sources said Monare started receiving threats late last year.

The threats, the source said, were coming from one of the police officers stationed at the Treasury Department.

Last Wednesday morning the same officer called Monare again and ordered him to come to the treasury department.

When Monare refused to comply the officer is alleged to have told him that he will be dead.

That was when Monare packed his bag and left the country.

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