Manyokole corruption trial moved to High Court

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Mohalenyane Phakela

SUSPENDED Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director General, Mahlomola Manyokole’s money laundering and corruption trial will now proceed in the High Court on a date to be set.

This after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, took over the prosecution of Adv Manyokole and his four co-accused and resolved to move to the trial to the High Court.

The case had initially been prosecuted by the DCEO in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court.

Adv Manyokole is charged alongside DCEO Chief Asset Recovery Litigation Officer Peter Matekane, former DCEO intern Relebohile Lesholu, Ikhetheleng Matabane and Matsobane Putsoa both of M Putsoa and Associates as well as Mr Matabane’s Mokorotlo Communications.

The quintet first appeared before Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa on 26 May 2021 who charged them with 24 counts of corruption, theft and money laundering.

Magistrate Moopisa subsequently released them on M3000 bail each, on condition that they attend remands, stand trial to finality and do not interfere with crown witnesses.

On Monday, Magistrate Moopisa removed the matter from the court roll as per the request of DPP Motinyane who had resolved to move the trial to the High Court.

In 29 July 2021, DPP Motinyane informed the Maseru Magistrates’ Court that she intended to prosecute the case in the High Court.

“I have, pursuant to the provisions of section 144 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 1981, indicted the accused for summary trial before the High Court on a charge of contravening section 21(3)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act 1999 and section 25 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crimes Act and section 57 of the Penal Code Act 2010,” DPP Motinyane states in her savingram.

Adv Manyokole and his co-accused appeared before Magistrate Moopisa on Monday in her chambers and she informed them that their trial had been moved to the High Court.

Section 144 of the CP&E gives the DPP powers to prosecute accused persons in the High Court if she feels crown witnesses may be in danger. She has powers to so without a preparatory examination in the magistrates’ court.

The charges stem from the Victoria Hotel saga wherein Adv Manyokole had instituted an investigation into alleged money laundering and corruption by Sobita Investments’ late owner, businessman Thabiso Tlelai who had leased the hotel from the government since 2002 until his death last year.

Last June, Adv Manyokole successfully petitioned the High Court for an order to place the hotel under curatorship.

The application was granted by Judge Molefi Makara on 15 June 2020. This after the anti-graft body argued that the late Mr Tlelai’s Sobita Investments was unprocedurally awarded the lease by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led government and had failed to pay M60 000 monthly rentals since 2002.

Adv Manyokole subsequently said the hotel would be run by a curator- M Putsoa and Associates.

But in a subsequent turn of events, Adv Manyokole was on 7 January 2021 suspended by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on allegations of incompetence. He was suspended on the advice of then Justice and Law Minister, Nqosa Mahao.

The DCEO subsequently charged Adv Manyokole with money laundering, corruption and abuse of office in connection with his handling of the Victor Hotel probe. He is accused, among other things, of embezzling money from Victoria Hotel to pay for expenses that had nothing to do with the curatorship.

The DCEO accuses Mr Matekane and Adv Manyokole of intentionally abusing their offices and committing the offences of fraud and corruption last June when they chose M Putsoa Associates as the Victoria Hotel curator when they were fully aware that the company had been deregistered by the LIA in 2016 and was therefore ineligible for that task.

Another corruption charge stems from Mr Matekane’s alleged failure to disclose his interest when he participated in the appointment of Mr Putsoa with whom he is alleged to have business and personal relations.

The accused had further engaged in embezzlement and theft when they used M11 532, 47 from Victoria Hotel to pay for M Putsoa and Associates’ membership fees to the LIA to give the curating firm a new lease of life and legitimise its appointment in retrospect.

M Putsoa and Associates had committed fraud by misrepresenting itself as a company lawfully conducting business when it had been deregistered by the LIA in 2016 on account of failing to pay its membership dues.

The DCEO accuses Messrs Matabane and Putsoa of corruption and money laundering when M Putsoa and Associates appointed Mokorotlo Communications to offer services to M Putsoa and Associates for a fee of M177 770.

M Putsoa and Associates is also accused of corruption when it allegedly transferred M104 520 into Mokorotlo Communications “with the aim of concealing and disguising the illicit origin or true nature of that property, thus violating the section 28 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act 1999”.

The charge sheet does not specify the specific services that Mokorotlo purportedly rendered. It implies no services were in fact rendered and the payments were a hoax to conceal the theft of Victoria Hotel funds.

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