THE Lesotho Court of Appeal on Monday reserved to 12 May 2017, judgment in the matter in which the prosecution wants the court to overturn last year’s High Court ruling that acquitted former Finance Minister Timothy Thahane of fraud charges.
High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi, in March last year, acquitted Dr Thahane of fraud charges in relation to the block farming project the government embarked on in 2008 when he was still the Minister of Finance.
Dr Thahane had been charged with misrepresenting to the Standard Lesotho Bank that the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili had endorsed inclusion of vegetable farming for Temo ‘Moho Mpharane Agricultural Association in the block farming project in 2008.
According to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane on June 6 2008 allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that then Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili and then Minister of Agriculture, Ralechate ‘Mokose had endorsed the Block Farming project for vegetable farmers belonging to the Temo-‘Moho Mpharane Agricultural Association of Leribe, resulting in government losing M18 092 587.50.
But Justice Monaphathi freed Dr Thahane on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prepare a case for Thahane to defend.
The prosecution subsequently appealed against the judgment.
On Monday, Senior Counsel (SC) Advocate Guido Penzhorn urged the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court judgment.
He said the High Court should have not acquitted Dr Thahane because there was evidence that he made a misrepresentation to the bank through the letter he wrote alleging Prime Minister Mosisili had endorsed the vegetable project under the block farming project.
However, the Acting President of the Court of Appeal Justice Ain Farlam asked Advocate Penzhorn if the prime minister had not endorsed the project when he said he did not see why the project could not be carried out.
“Was the prime minister not endorsing when he said, during the cross examination; ‘I don’t remember saying it, but I could have said it’,” Justice Farlam asked.
Advocate Penzhorn replied by saying, “The prime minister said he had discussions with the minister and he had sympathy for farmers, but for the minister to go to the bank and say the prime minister had endorsed the project was totally wrong”.
The court, however said that during the trial before the High Court, the prime minister did not deny that he had endorsed the project in an informal discussion with Dr Thahane.
Judgment has been reserved to 12 May this year at the end of this Court of Appeal’s first session.
Dr Thahane is represented by Senior Counsel Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza.