Top cop off the hook

Graft charges dropped against ACP Soko

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (ACP) Matšepo soko re­turned to work this week 15 months af­ter she was sus­pended for sus­pected cor­rup­tion.

Af­ter the Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) Leaba thet­sane with­drew cor­rup­tion charges she was fac­ing be­fore the Maseru Mag­is­trate’s Court for lack of ev­i­dence, ACP soko re­ported for duty at Po­lice Head­quar­ters on Mon­day.

At the time of her sus­pen­sion on 5 May 2014 for al­legedly so­lic­it­ing a M5000 bribe from a Chi­nese man, Chen Ming, in re­turn for help­ing him il­le­gally ac­quire a firearm cer­tifi­cate, ACP soko was in charge of the Crime Unit but has now been moved to head Oper­a­tions.

A sav­in­gram writ­ten by King’s Coun­sel (KC) thet­sane dated 28 April 2014 and ad­dressed to the po­lice com­mis­sioner, among oth­ers, out­lined the charges ACP sooko faced. the com­mu­niqué read: “Maseru Cen­tral Charge Of­fice R.C.I 96/04/14. Charges: Con­tra­ven­tion of Sec­tion 68(1) of the Pe­nal Code Act, No.6 (of) 2010 and Sec­tion 13(3) of the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences Act (of) 1999, (As Amended) Rex v ’Matšepo soko (ACP) duly brought to the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions for di­rec­tives as the sus­pect herein is a serv­ing mem­ber of the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice ser­vice (LMPS) in the ca­pac­ity of As­sis­tant is­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (ACP – Crime)..

“i re­fer to the above-cited mat­ter. ter. Hav­ing metic­u­lously read state­ments con­taine­dontained in the docket un­der ref­er­ence, i am of the con­sid­ered view that there is a prima-fa­ciea-fa­cie case against the sus­pect. the fact that at no stage dur­ing the pe­riod un­der ref­er­ence nce did the Board for­mally sit to con­sider ap­pli­ca­tions li­ca­tions for the ac­qui­si­tion of firearm cer­tifi­cate­sates is suf­fi­cient to con­clude that the pur­porte­dorted grant­ing or ap­proval of ap­pli­cant’s ap­pli­ca­tion­pli­ca­tion by ACP soko con­sti­tuted a crim­i­nall of­fence in the na­ture of fraud. the rep­re­sen­ta­tion­ta­tion com­mu­ni­cated by her to the body charged harged with the fi­nal is­suance of cer­tifi­cates was clearly in con­tra­ven­tion of Sec. 68 (1) off the Pe­nal Code.”

in ad­di­tion, Ad­vo­cate thet­sane e (KC) in­di­cated ACP soko also ap­peared too have con­tra­vened pro­vi­sions of Sec­tion 13 3 (3) of the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic­co­nomic Of­fences Act No.5 of 1999 (as amended)ded) “in the per­for­mance of her du­ties as As­sis­tan­tis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (ACP — Crime).”e).”

the DPP fur­ther noted an “in-depthn-depth pe­rusal of the state­ments herein re­vealseals that no state­ment has been ob­tained from m the of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nal is­suance of the firearms cer­tifi­cate to whom a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion­re­sen­ta­tion was com­mu­ni­cated.

“it is fur­ther noted that no state­ment­te­ment and or ex­pla­na­tion was ob­tained from m the ap­pli­cant, Mr Chen Ming, who was fi­nal­ly­nally is­sued the cer­tifi­cate. That be­ing the case,e, we are as at present, un­able to de­cide whether ther or not to di­rect that he be jointly chargedd or used as an ac­com­plice depend­ing on the con­tent ntent of his ex­pla­na­tion should he give one.

“Against the above back­drop, it is di­rected as fol­lows: that ACP (Cis) soko be charged and re­manded on the of­fences: Coun­tunt 1: Con­tra­ven­tion of Sec­tion 68 (1) of the Pe­nal Code Act of 2010. Count 2: Con­tra­ven­tion tion of sec­tion 21 of the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tionup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences Act of 1999 (ass amended) by Sec­tion 13 (3) of Amend­mentent Act No. 3 of 2006, be­fore the Maseru Mag- is­trate’s Court.”

Ad­vo­cate thet­sane added: “For the sake of com­plete­ness, i di­rect that a state­ment and or ex­pla­na­tion be ob­tained from Mr Ming fol­low­ing which it may be de­cided whether or not to join him as ac­cused depend­ing on the na­ture of his ex­pla­na­tion should he prof­fer one. As al­luded to here­in­above, it is im­per­a­tive to ob­tain a re­port from the of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing firearm cer­tifi­cates to whom a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion was com­mu­ni­cated.”

How­ever, in a new twist to the saga, Ad­vo­cate thet­sane is­sued another sav­in­gram dated 3 July 2015 and ad­dressed to Maseru Pros­e­cu­tion Of­fice’s Crown Coun­sel Ad­vo­cate L Phooko and Ad­vo­cate Mo­hale, which set ACP soko free.

the DPP noted: “Your sav­in­gram dated 24 March 2015 (which the Le­sotho Times could not se­cure a copy) on the above-cited mat­ter (Rex v ’Matšepo Soko) refers. Con­tents thereof are noted. Af­ter ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions ap­per­tain­ing to the views ex­pressed in the sav­in­gram un­der ref­er­ence, i re­spond thereto here­un­der as fol­lows:

“that in­deed a closer look at the docket leaves one with ap­pre­hen­sion (as al­luded in your sav­in­gram) that the pros­e­cu­tion’s case may be shaky to the ex­tent that pro­ceed­ing there­with might cre­ate an im­pres­sion that the ‘ac­cused’ is be­ing per­se­cuted.

“That the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions should, at all times, be seen to be act­ing in the most ob­jec­tive man­ner ever in the best in­ter­ests of jus­tice. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, sight should not be lost of the fact that the now ac­cused is a fairly se­nior of­fi­cer; and that press­ing for pros­e­cu­tion in the phase of facts so strongly mit­i­gat­ing against the Crown might be seen as pur­su­ing some in­di­vid­u­als’ hid­den agen­das. Per­haps it is too late to ob­serve as one does, as the adage goes it is bet­ter late than never.

“Hav­ing so ob­served, i di­rect that the present sav­in­gram su­per­sedes one ear­lier is­sued dated 28 April 2014. Dif­fer­ently put, the April 28 sav­in­gram stands with­drawn. in the premises there­fore and act­ing in ac­cor­dance with pro­vi­sions of Sec­tion 278 (3) of the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure and Ev­i­dence Act no. 7 of 1981, I di­rect that charges against the ac­cused herein be with­drawn.

“the net-ef­fect of the de­ci­sion (with­drawal) should clearly be un­der­stood to mean that ACP sooko will be a free citizen soon af­ter the with­drawal of charges be­fore the court on 14 July 2015. The docket is here­with re­turned to en­able you to com­ply with the di­rec­tives as is­sued.”

Mean­while, the Le­sotho Times is in pos­ses­sion of a copy of Mr Ming’s state­ment ob­tained by one De­tec­tive sergeant tšotetsi

on 23 May 2014. Mr Cheng Ming (32) of Fu­jing in China was work­ing in Mafeteng at Wei Qi En­ter­prise at the time.

Mr Ming was quoted in the state­ment: “i ar­rived in Le­sotho around 2002 and worked at Wei Qi En­ter­prise as a gen­eral man­ager.

“On the 21 Au­gust 2013, I took fin­ger­prints and ap­plied for a firearm. On 25 De­cem­ber 2013, I got a call from PHQ and some­body asked if i was Chen Ming and had ap­plied for a firearm li­cense. I said yes. He again said i had a crim­i­nal record and had to do some­thing for his boss so that my prob­lem of the crim­i­nal record would be solved. He de­manded that I must bring M5 000 (five thou­sand maloti) for his boss.

“i came to PHQ early that morn­ing af­ter that con­ver­sa­tion and told him the num­ber plates of my ve­hi­cle. i told him i would park out­side near the fence at PHQ. Around 11:30hours, af­ter I parked my car out­side PHQ, a man came to me and iden­ti­fied him­self as a po­lice of­fi­cer who had called and I gave him that amount of five thou­sand and he said he would call me at lunchtime.

“Around lunchtime, he called me and said my li­cence had been ap­proved and asked where we could meet. i said at the same spot, and i rushed to PHQ as i was still around here in Maseru. He gave me the ap­proval form and i went back to Mafeteng. On 26/11/2013, I went to AK Arms and Ammo and pur­chased a pump-ac­tion and 7.65mm and there­after i went to Maseru Cen­tral Charge Of­fice with the se­rial num­ber of those guns so that I could have a firearm cer­tifi­cate for those guns.”

Asked if she had any­thing to say re­gard­ing her sus­pen­sion and re­turn to work, ACP soko re­ferred the Le­sotho Times to LMPS spokesper­son Clifford Molefe.

On his part, se­nior in­spec­tor Molefe yesterday con­firmed ACP Sooko’s re­turn, telling the Le­sotho Times: “she re­sumed her du­ties on 3 Au­gust 2015 (Mon­day). She is now in charge of po­lice oper­a­tions. this comes af­ter the charges against her were dropped. ACP sooko was charged on sus­pi­cion that she was in­volved in il­le­gally is­su­ing a firearm cer­tifi­cate and there was noth­ing wrong with that. the po­lice were do­ing their job. this can be done to any­one sus­pected of wrong­do­ing.” Mean­while, ef­forts to get a com­ment from the DPP were un

suc­cess­ful.

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Matšepo soko.

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