Fraudster appeals against conviction

MASERU — Former Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) accountant Peggy Thakeli yesterday asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the conviction imposed on her by the High Court for fraud.

The High Court in July last year slapped Thakeli with an eight-year jail term for facilitating the fraudulent transfer of M2.4 million from the LHDA’s ABSA bank account in South Africa to the First National Bank (FNB) account belonging to Soleman Sameer.

The prosecution said the transfer was made under false pretence that Sameer was a contractor who had provided services to LHDA when in fact he had not provided any services.

She was also found guilty on four counts of fraud in which she and her lover Steven Dlamini made false quotes for the buying of construction materials at a non-existent Iketsetseng hardware.

She was sentenced to six years in jail for two counts in which the LHDA had paid for the false quotes and she was sentenced to four years for two quotes in which LHDA did not make payments.

The sentences were to run concurrently.

After the conviction and sentence Thakeli appealed the High Court judgment saying she was not afforded a fair trial.

Thakeli’s lawyer Advocate Motiea Teele yesterday said the Court of Appeal should set aside Thakeli’s conviction because she was not afforded a fair trial.

“The fact that the appellant’s counsel in the court below (Advocate Karabo Mohau) was not able to cross-examine the expert witness fully amounted to unfair trial on the part of the appellant (Thakeli).

“I therefore ask this honourable court to set aside the appellant’s conviction,” Teele said.

Teele said it was not easy to read the report made by the expert witness because of the inelligible handwriting.

He said Thakeli’s lawyer was not able to fully cross-examine the expert witness because he was not able to prepare before such witness could testify.

Teele also said he agreed that there was conspiracy between Dlamini and other people within the LHDA to defraud the LHDA but Thakeli was not involved in the offence.

“There was conspiracy between Dlamini and a true insider to set up the appellant,” Teele said.

Responding to the question why Dlamini would set up his girlfriend, Teele said Dlamini was just using the relationship between him and Thakeli for his own benefit.

“Dlamini chose to set up the appellant because he (Dlamini) is a user (sic).

“The evidence has shown that he is a user (sic),” Teele said.

Dlamini was Thakeli’s co-accused but absconded in 2006 after the two magistrates tampered with the court records.

He was re-arrested in 2008 and his trial is still pending in the High Court.

Thakeli was tried alone when Dlamini was still at large.

However Thakeli will know her fate on April 23.

She is still on bail because High Court judge Ts’eliso Monaphathi extended her bail pending the appeal.

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