Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) director general Mahlomola Manyokole (41) and head of the Asset Recovery Unit Peter Matekane (39) are facing charges of corruption and fraud for allegedly swindling the government out of M3,8 million.
On Friday, Matekane appeared alongside five other co-accused before Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa of the Maseru Magistrate Court. They were read 16 charges of corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering. Manyokole did not appear but Prosecutor Mamongonyo Baasi told the court that he would be brought to be charged on Monday May 24.
MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism witnessed Matekane in the dock alongside Ikhetheleng Francis Matabane (59), Matsobane Putsoa (75) and Relebohile Lesholu (28).
Lesholu is a legal practitioner who worked at the DCEO as an intern and was directly supervised by Matekane. Matsobane Putsoa owns the auditing firm, M Putsoa and Associates, which is also listed as an accused entity. Matabane is Matekane’s business associate. Also named among the accused is Matabane’s company, Mokorotlo Communications (Pty) Ltd.
The charges relate to the alleged appointment by Manyokole and Matekane of the auditing firm, M Putsoa and Associates, to which they are personally linked to act as curator bonis of a hotel that the DCEO was investigating on a separate matter.
Magistrate Moopisa told the court that the accused shared a “common intention to pursue an unlawful act together, … did intentionally abuse functions or positions of their offices, … for the purpose of obtaining undue advantage for themselves or for another person”.
In July 2020, the High Court placed the government-owned Victoria Hotel under curatorship on request from the DCEO on the grounds that the leaseholder, Sobita Investments, had been unprocedurally awarded the lease and had reneged on its monthly rental payments if M60,000.
On recommendation from the DCEO, the High Court approved the appointment of M Putsoa and Associates as Curator Bonis of the hotel. A curator bonis is a legal representative appointed by a court to manage the finances, property, or estate of another institution or person unable to do so for various reasons. M Putsoa and Associates – unbeknown to the High Court– was at the time of its appointment de-registered from the Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA), and had been since June 2016, for non-payment of membership fees.
Following the appointment of M Putsoa and Associates as Curator Bonis, Matabane and Putsoa allegedly acted swiftly to re-register the auditing firm with the LIA and on July 23, 2020, they allegedly unlawfully and intentionally embezzled and diverted M11, 532.47 from Victoria Hotel to pay for the re-registration fees.
According to Magistrate Moopisa, Manyokole and Matekane appointed M Putsoa and Associates as the Curator Bonis, which in turn used its position to transfer funds into various accounts of theirs (Manyokole and Matekane’s) “business associates, family and friends, with aim to conceal and disguise illicit origin … or ownership of said monies, fully knowing that that was unlawful”.
The court charged the accused under various pieces of anti-corruption legislation, including contravening section 21 (3) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act 5 of 1999 as amended by Act 8 of 2006 and section 68 (1) read with section 26 (1) and 109 of the penal code Act 6 of 2010.
Magistrate Moopisa said Manyokole and Matekane, in their July 2020 application to the High Court to appoint M Putsoa and Associates, shared the common intention to “deliberately made a false representation … and recommended that the court appoints M Putsoa and Associates as curator bonis for Victoria hotel”. In so doing, the court said that Matekane and Manyokole committed the crime of fraud as they “knew M Putsoa and Associates is not fit and proper.” As a result, the court says, the government of Lesotho suffered loss amounting to M 3, 858, 771.74.
The accused are also facing charges of:
- Embezzlement for using public funds to pay for the re-registration of M Putsoa and Associates with the LIA.
- Corruption on various accounts including using the Victoria Hotel rooms for personal lodging without pay and using Victoria Hotel money “unlawfully, wrongfully and intentionally, [and] being in possession of money belonging to Victoria Hotel, apply [sic] that money to their own use”.
- Money-laundering on various accounts including the allegation that between June 10, 2020 and January 2021, Matabane and Putsoa transferred M104,520 from the M Putsoa and Associates account into the account of Matabane’s company Mokorotlo Communications with the aim of “concealing and disguising the illicit origin of monies.” Additionally, Moopisa said Matabane and Putsoa transferred various tranches of M28, 000 , M41,000, M30, 000, M33, 800 and M28, 500 to co-accused Lesholu’s personal account with the aim of “concealing and disguising the illicit origin of the monies and committed the offense of money laundering.”
Moopisa granted each of the accused M3000 bail and instructed them to adhere to their bail conditions, which includes attending remands, standing trial to finality and not interfering with crown witnesses.
The accused will appear before court on May 31 when it will be ascertained whether prosecution investigations have been completed in order to pave the way for trial.
This case adds to the already beleaguered future of Manyokole’s whose job at the helm of the DCEO is already hanging in the balance as he faces impeachment under separate accusations of incompetence and defeating the ends of justice by former Minister of Justice Nqosa Mahoa. Last week the Court of Appeal dismissed Manyokole’s court bid to disband the impeachment tribunal.