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Three nabbed over missing M50 million

by Lesotho Times
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Pascalinah Kabi

THREE Finance Ministry officers were yesterday arrested and grilled by the police in connection with the M50 million which has gone missing in the ministry.

Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, confirmed the development last night, saying “three men from the Ministry of Finance are in police custody”.

He said the three were assisting the police with investigations over the M50 million that went missing last month. The funds went missing in the Finance ministry last month, with minister Thabo Sophonea saying the government became aware of the theft on 20 September 2021.

“We received a report on 20 September that there were allegations of embezzlement of funds by way of effecting payments to companies in and outside the country. Some of these businesses are not part of the government supplier list.

“We established that there have been few attempts to process payments, and some of these payments were successfully processed and paid into the suspects’ bank accounts. There are also other payments which were unsuccessful. This embezzlement of funds was done by civil servants and their friends in and outside the country and it is estimated that M50 million of the public funds has been embezzled,” Mr Sophonea said.

He said the theft was unfortunate as the government purse was almost empty and it was struggling to pay its suppliers.

Mr Sophonea said a case of embezzlement had already been reported to the relevant authorities and that investigations were ongoing.

He also indicated that the officers suspected to have been involved in the embezzlement had already been suspended.

“We have already suspended officers who are close to the payment process to allow investigations to go on without any interruptions. We are also investigation our own payment process with the banks as well as improving security of public funds,” Mr Sophonea said.

Countries around the world are reeling from the Covid-19-induced economic meltdown and similarly, Lesotho has been negatively affected, he said.

“It is unfortunate that while we are still confronted with these challenges, there are some people who decided to embezzle government funds. We appeal to all Basotho to give information which will assist in ensuring that doers of these cruel actions face the wrath of the law,” Mr Sophonea said.

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