LEPOSA probed over “missing” firearms

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE police have begun investigating the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) over its alleged failure to account for 159 firearms that it purchased for its members through a purchase scheme started in 2014.

The firearms were not accounted for in an audit report presented to the Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, in July this year. The audit was prepared by LEPOSA treasurer, ‘Mathebe Motseki.

This week, 10 police officers from the Criminal Investigations Division (CID), stormed LEPOSA offices in Maseru as part of the probe over the missing guns.

They were accompanied by five members of the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

The search was conducted a day after Commissioner Molibeli had addressed a press conference where he said LEPOSA had repeatedly ignored his orders to account for the 159 guns that it had purchased for its members since 2014.

There was a real danger that unaccounted for weapons could be used for criminal activities which endangered public safety, he said at the Monday press conference.

Incidentally, Commissioner Molibeli was LEPOSA president when the weapons purchase scheme was launched in 2014. LEPOSA’s Lance Sergeant Motseki believes that Tuesday’s search was merely a ploy to collect and conceal evidence which could implicate former and current LEPOSA members who had allegedly misappropriated the M1, 4 million that LEPOSA members paid for the guns.

Prior to the Tuesday search, LEPOSA president, Teboho Modia, had spent the weekend at the police headquarters being grilled over the guns. Lance Sergeant Motseki was also called in on Monday and grilled by the 10 CID officers.

At the Monday press conference, Commissioner Molibeli accused the LEPOSA leadership of failing to account for the weapons despite his repeated appeals for them to do so.

“In 2014, police officers came together and formed a scheme under which they were allowed to import guns. The guns were later imported but the audit report subsequently revealed that 159 guns were not accounted for,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

“We asked LEPOSA what had happened to the missing firearms but they seemed disinterested in giving us an answer and so we ended up forcing the association to give us answers by calling in the president for questioning.”

A search warrant was granted by Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa.

It authorised the CID officers and their SOU colleagues to confiscate LEPOSA cash books, cheque books, internal requisition forms, receipts, invoices, insurance books, the firearms scheme file, computers and anything else related to the firearms transactions.

The officers barred a Lesotho Times crew from entering the LEPOSA building to witness the search operation.

In an interview on the sidelines of the search, Lance Sergeant Motseki said the search was merely to find and conceal evidence which was likely to implicate former and some of the current LEPOSA members in the misappropriation of the money that the members had paid for their guns.

Lance Sergeant Motseki said Commissioner Molibeli was best placed to know what happened to the missing funds because he was LEPOSA president when the scheme started in 2014. She said even after they were ordered, the guns were stored at the police headquarters armoury and not at the LEPOSA offices. She said while preparing her audit report earlier this year, she had been to the armoury and found that only 159 weapons were missing.

“This scheme was started in 2014 while Commissioner Molibeli was still the president (of LEPOSA) and some of the current executive members were part of LEPOSA back then. I only assumed this position in December 2019 but I was grilled by 10 officers over the missing M1, 4 million.

“I worked on an audit report from May this year and submitted it to the police command sometime in July. While working on the report, I discovered that there was no money paid into the LEPOSA account for the 159 firearms.

“I subsequently learnt that the police officers who had bought the guns had paid for them in cash and the then LEPOSA committee which received the monies did not record the funds but pocketed them instead. All this is contained in my report.

“I believe there has always been a plan to cover up the corruption because even before the auditing started, Commissioner Molibeli demanded the firearms scheme file in March this year. I did not give it to him because I needed it for the audit report,” Lance Sergeant Motseki said.

She said the LEPOSA executive was divided over the issue because some members had been part of the executive when the guns purchase scheme was started in 2014.

“This issue has divided us because some of the current LEPOSA executive committee members were among those who benefitted from the scheme when it was started in 2014.

“When I started working on the audit report, my house was broken into and furniture was destroyed. I think they were trying to instill fear in me so that I stop with the audit. However, I did what I had to do and we will continue to fight until the truth comes out,” she said.

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