Judgment reserved in Mosito case
The Court of Appeal on Monday reserved judgment on whether or not its suspended president, Justice Kananelo Mosito, should stand trial for allegedly violating the country’s tax laws.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Leaba Thetsane on 21 August 2015 issued a notice of trial against Justice Mosito for his alleged failure to submit income tax returns between 31 March 1996 and 31 March 2014.
Justice Mosito was required to appear before the High Court for the said charges on 31 August 2015 but filed an urgent constitutional application on the same day to block the prosecution on the grounds it violated provisions of the country’s constitution.
Justice Mosito also complained that his prosecution was discriminatory because he was allegedly singled out of other judges and some top lawyers.
But before the application could be heard, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili wrote a letter to Justice Mosito informing him about his intention to advise King Letsie III to appoint a tribunal to investigate him for possible impeachment.
In response, Justice Mosito filed another application seeking to block Dr Mosisili’s move.
The two applications were argued together, with the Constitutional Court dismissing both cases.
However, Justice Mosito appealed the judgment and also filed an application before the Court of Appeal for an order stopping the DPP from proceeding with the case. The judge also wanted the court to stop Dr Mosisili from advising the King to establish the impeachment tribunal.
The Court of Appeal on 26 January this year ruled in favour of the Prime Minister, but stopped the DPP from continuing with the criminal charges until the appeal had been finalised.
When the case went before the same court on Monday this week, judgment was reserved.
During Monday’s argument, Justice Mosito’s lawyer, Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai, told the court when the Prime Minister wrote a letter indicating his intention to establish the impeachment tribunal, he was violating principles of law which require non-interference with issues pending in court.
“When the case was not yet finalized, the Prime Minister wrote a letter to kick-start judicial investigations on the basis of criminal charges challenged in court.
“It was a blatant violation of the sub-judice rule.
“It was not right for the Prime Minister to author that letter when there was a pending case. Prior to charging a judge, there must be an inquiry,” Advocate Rasekoai said.
The lawyer also said the tax charges against Justice Mosito were illegal because they were not initiated by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) as required by the law.
“Where there is a tax offence, the commissioner himself should be the initiator, but it is clear that the DPP charged him on his own,” he said.
But Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn who represents the DPP and Attorney General in the case, said the DPP had the right to prefer criminal charges on anyone.
“The decision to prosecute lies with the DPP.
“If a judge is facing charges, he must challenge them before that same court,” he said.
Advocate Penzhorn said it was also not correct that the DPP should have waited for the tribunal established under section 125 of the constitution before charging Justice Mosito.
“Section 125 has nothing to do with what the DPP does,” Advocate Penzhorn said.