Two magistrates plead not guilty

 MASERU — Two magistrates on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of defeating the ends of justice after they set free an alleged fraudster five years ago.

‘Mampai Lesupi and Itumeleng Letsika are accused of tampering with court records to show that fraud charges levelled against Stephen Dlamini had been withdrawn.

Dlamini was, together with accountant Peggy Thakeli, facing charges of defrauding the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) of M2.8 million.

The magistrates are accused of tampering with the court records to allow charges against Dlamini to be dropped.

The anomaly was discovered after Dlamini moved to claim his bail money.

It was discovered that the minutes which indicated that charges against Dlamini had been withdrawn were not genuine and had been tampered with.

Immediately after, Dlamini absconded.

Dlamini’s co-accused, Thakeli, was tried alone and found guilty. She was slapped with an eight-year jail sentence last year.

Thakeli began serving her eight-year prison term last month after the Court of Appeal confirmed the High Court judgment.

This is however not the first time that the case is before the courts.

The case was first heard in the High Court in 2008.

High Court Judge Gabriel Mofolo acquitted the duo in April 2008.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leaba Thetsane, appealed against the judgment.

In a ruling delivered in 2008, the Court of Appeal said the case should start afresh before a new judge.

As the case resumed on Tuesday, the two magistrates denied defeating the ends of justice when they appeared before Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane.

After the duo pleaded not guilty, the prosecution and defence lawyers agreed to hand in statements from the two prosecution witnesses who had testified before the matter went to the Court of Appeal.

The two witnesses are magistrate ‘Mafelile Ralebese and the Maseru Magistrate’s Court clerk ‘Mants’ebo Abia.

After he absconded, luck ran out for Dlamini when he was re-arrested in August 2008 in Maseru.

His fraud case is currently in the High Court.

Dlamini is now facing an additional charge of defeating the course of justice for allegedly conniving with the two magistrates to set him free.

He is currently in prison after he was denied bail following his re-arrest.

The prosecution argued that Dlamini was a flight risk and could abscond.

Dlamini’s co-accused, Thakeli, started serving her eight-year jail term on April 23.

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