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Man facing M2.8m fraud charge appeals bail ruling

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU  — Steven Dlamini, who is facing charges of defrauding the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) of M2.8 million, on Monday pleaded with the Court of Appeal to review his bail application.
Dlamini allegedly defrauded the LHDA of M2.8 million in 2004.
In 2006 while Dlamini was still attending remand hearings in the magistrates’ court, two magistrates allegedly tampered with the court records to indicate that charges against him had been withdrawn.
The two magistrates are facing separate charges of obstructing the ends of justice.
Dlamini later absconded but was re-arrested in Maseru last year by officials from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences who were investigating his fraud case.
He appeared before magistrate Palesa Rantara in August last year who denied him bail. Dlamini then approached the High Court asking the court to set aside Rantara’s decision on the grounds that the magistrate had misdirected herself.
Dlamini argued that his arrest was unlawful and therefore his detention was also unlawful.
High Court Judge Gabriel Mofolo ruled that Dlamini’s arrest was unlawful because he was arrested by the DCEO officials.
The judge said Dlamini was however properly detained in prison because of what had transpired before he was re-arrested.
Dlamini appealed against Mofolo’s judgment saying his bail application should be reviewed because the High Court had found that his arrest was unlawful.
His lawyer Advocate Thabo Mpaka on Monday told the Court of Appeal that Dlamini’s unlawful arrest made his detention in prison unlawful.
“It follows that anything happening as a result of unlawful arrest is also unlawful. We are asking this court to order that there was misdirection on the part of the magistrate who denied him (Dlamini) bail,” Mpaka said.
The interpretation law stipulates that only peace officers should effect arrests on suspects.
DCEO officials are not considered peace officers under the said law.
However, Dlamini was arrested after the DCEO obtained a warrant of arrest from the magistrates’ court.
Mpaka also told the Court of Appeal that Rantara’s record of proceedings on bail application did not show that she advised Dlamini that he had the right to seek postponement for leading evidence in court for his bail application.
“It is clear from her record that she did not advise him (Dlamini) that he had right to ask for postponement for him to get a lawyer to represent him for bail application.
“If we were invited to represent him we would demand that evidence be led before the magistrate could decide on whether to grant or deny him bail,” Mpaka said.
But the lawyer for the crown, Advocate Hjalmar Woker, said Rantara’s affidavit showed that she advised Dlamini of his constitutional rights during the remand proceedings.
“Her affidavit clearly states that he (Dlamini) was advised of his right to legal representation as well as his right to bail.
“He then applied for bail which was denied,” Woker said.
However, Woker said if Dlamini succeeds on appeal his bail should not be referred back to the magistrates’ court but to the High Court because his case is already pending in the High Court.
“Now that he has been indicted in the High Court he should bring his bail application in the High Court before the judge who is seized with his fraud case,” Woker said.
Dlamini will know his fate on Friday next week.

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