Pakistanis spared jail time

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Tefo Tefo

FOUR Pakistanis this week avoided jail by each paying M2500 fines after they were convicted of forgery in relation to the possession of forged work permits.

The four are Shalizod Shahit Bull Shabolilu (43), Humid Rafa (23), Rohaui Shahid (27) and Pervaij Rehimit (29). They were on Monday each sentenced to two and half years in prison by Maseru magistrate Monyake Hlabanyane after pleading guilty to forgery.

Mr Hlabanyane gave them the option of each paying a M2500 fine. They were released after paying the fines.

The four Pakistanis first appeared before the Magistrates’ Court on Friday where the charge of forgery was preferred on them. They were remanded in custody with their lawyer, Advocate Rantšiuoa Lesenyeho, telling the court that he would apply for bail when the proceedings resumed on Monday.

But when the quartet appeared in court on Monday at 1500 hours, Adv Lesenyeho changed his tune and informed the court that instead of applying for bail, his clients would now plead guilty to the charges.

Asked by Magistrate Monyake Hlabanyane how they pleaded to the charges, the four visibly terrified accused Pakistanis said: “guilty”

The District Public Prosecutor Qcinumuzi Tshabalala responded by saying, “We accept the plea”.

Mr Tshabalala added: “If they did not plead guilty the evidence would show that the first accused (Shabolilu) was at the First National Bank (FNB) in Maseru on 11 July 2018 to open a bank account and he was in possession of a certificate of employment (work permit).

“During the process the bank teller became suspicious about the card he (Shabolilu) was holding (work permit). The teller then reported him to the police, although the account was opened for him.

“The four accused persons were all together at the bank. They left for Teyateyaneng and the police pursued them.

“They were caught at Lekokoaneng on their way to Teyateyaneng.”

Mr Tshabalala further said the police conducted a body search on the quartet and found ‘work permits’ bearing the numbers of E55575, E55989, E56194 and E55545.

“These documents have signatures of the former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana and the current commissioner, Holomo Molibeli and they were taken for testing.

“The former and current police commissioners were asked whether or not they ever signed for such documents and they said they did not sign such documents.

“The documents were then seized and taken to the Clerk of Court to be kept as exhibits. The four were charged by the police with the crime of forgery,” Mr Tshabalala said.

Magistrate Hlabanyane asked them if they agreed to the outline of the case against them as stated by Mr Tshabalala and they all replied in the affirmative.

In mitigation their lawyer, Adv Lesenyeho asked the court to impose a lenient sentence on them, saying they committed the crime “out of desperation”.

“The accused say they are sorry for the crime they have committed. They say they committed the crime solely out of desperation because they have so many people who depend on them for their livelihood.

“The commission of this crime was solely to look after their families. We are aware of the poor economic status of their country. However, this is not an excuse to justify their wrong doing.

“The fact that they pleaded guilty to the charges shows that they are very remorseful to what they have done. We have already made a plea bargain with the prosecution that they should each be fined between M2000 and M3000 with the undertaking that they will do things the right way,” Adv Lesenyeho submitted.

In delivering sentence, Mr Hlabanyane noted that the four were first time offenders who pleaded guilty to the charges “as a sign of remorse and that they undertake to abide by the laws of this country”.

“I also accept the plea bargain as submitted by counsel. As a result, I hereby sentence them as follows: each accused person should pay M2500 as fine. If they fail to pay they will spend two and half in prison,” Mr Hlabanyane ordered.

The quartet could not hide their joy upon the announcement of the verdict and they all rushed out of the dock to embrace their lawyer.

They were however, stopped in their tracks by the prison officials who told them, “Hold on, you are still our people until all due process to officially release you from prison is complete”.

They were taken back to prison where they would be officially released. Their relatives remained in court to pay the fines.

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