MD to appeal against conviction

MASERU — The managing director of Lesotho Precious Garments John Leu who was slapped with a 10-year sentence for stealing a company from local shareholder is planning to launch an appeal against the conviction and sentence.

High Court judge, ’Maseshophe Hlajoane sentenced Leu, a Taiwanese citizen to a 10-year prison term or a M40 000 fine after finding him guilty of fraud and forgery.

Evidence before court showed that Leu and a local lawyer, ’Mamocha Moruthane connived to steal the textile company from its original shareholders by filing forged documents with the Registrar of Companies.

The court heard that Leu and Moruthane deceived the Registrar of Companies into believing that the original shareholders had transferred their shares to two Taiwanese.

Moruthane and Leu were part of the original shareholders who included Thulare Moruthane, two Lets’oara brothers Makhamise and Sebala and Dr Ts’iu Makakole.

Moruthane was entrusted with handling all legal matters for the company but instead connived with Leu to take the company from the original shareholders. .

She confesed that she forged papers and sent them to the registrar who removed the other four shareholders of Lesotho Precious Garments and replaced them with the two Taiwanese, Pai Yun-Hsin and Tsai Chu Hsin.

Leu’s lawyer Stephen Buys told the Lesotho Times in an interview that he was planning to appeal against both the conviction and sentence.

Buys, however, said he was not ready to discuss grounds of the pending appeal.

“We are going to appeal against both the conviction and the sentence,” Buys said. “We will not discuss the reasons, not now.”

Judge Hlajoane said Moruthane and Leu discussed and agreed on how to commit the offences.

The judge, however, absolved Moruthane from any criminal charge saying as an accomplice she had confessed and voluntarily answered all questions to the satisfaction of the court.

“She is discharged because she has answered all questions to the court’s satisfaction,” Hlajoane said.

In mitigation Advocate Haae Phoofolo who was part of Leu’s defence team had pleaded with Hlajoane to be lenient.

Phoofolo said Leu has been a permanent resident in Lesotho for over 20 years and his investment had created 7000 jobs.

Phoofolo also read Leu’s letter in which he pleaded for mercy because he had contributed to the development of the textile industry in Lesotho and that he was paying school fees for many children.

In Mafeteng, the court heard, Leu spends M20 000 a year for orphaned children’s school fees while he has donated a quarter of a million Maloti towards the building of a day care centre.

He also told the court that he is helping many other orphans in Maseru.

“It is my intention to continue,” said Leu in his letter.

Leu said he buried unclaimed human corpses in Maseru in 2007.

“I paid for all expenses including excavation.”

He also said he sponsored athletes who participated in 2008 Soweto Marathon.

He expressed a sense of regret and remorse for having deceived the companies’ registrar.

He said he had not suspected that anything was wrong with the share transfers because the documents had the registrar’s official stamp.

Leu also tried to convince the court that his imprisonment would impact negatively on the economy because the 7000 people employed by the Lesotho Precious Garments and its sister company, P and T Garments would lose their jobs.

He also said the two Taiwanese directors would have no option but to direct orders from overseas in Vietnam where they owned another big factory.

Leu’s case was the first of its kind to have attracted thousands of sympathisers who came to show support to a convict. 

Thousands of Leu’s employees surrounded the court premises, hoisting placards.

“Focus on his crime not his race,” read one of the placards.

“His wrongdoings should not overcrowd good things he did,” reads another.

“If John is to be imprisoned, our families will starve, and 7 000 workers would lose jobs,” said another.

Many of the demonstrators said they believed that Leu should not be committed to prison because he had been good to many people.

“Even if John Leu did not have money we were prepared to contribute towards his fine to get him released,” said one of the workers.

“Most of us here have managed to educate our children through the support and help from Lesotho Precious Garment factory. We would rather support and follow him than these corrupt politicians,” said another.

Some women wept and ululated at the same time at the sight of Leu coming out of the Maseru Central Prison.

“I thank you for your support,” said Leu through the loud speaker. 

Meanwhile, the management of Lesotho Precious Garments say despite the conviction they were still convinced that Leu had not stolen the company.

In an interview with Lesotho Times a day after Leu was convicted, Monyane said, “It is wrong to suggest that John has stolen the company.”

Monyane said the former directors who took Leu to court had not even contributed any money to start the business.

“The directors including Leu registered the company Lesotho Precious but none of them had contributed anything,” he said.

Although the company was registered, it did not have funds to start operation, Monyane said.  

“When the applicants approached the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), a body responsible for development of factories, they were required to have someone with an expertise in the textile industry, they then approached Leu.”

According to Monyane, the LNDC also wanted security from the directors.

“They came back to Leu saying he should put Lesotho Hawk, predecessor of Lesotho Precious as security, but John declined saying he could not afford to take such a risk,” he said.

Monyane said the fact that Leu has been convicted does not deprive him of his ownership of the company.

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