. . . as LCD leader in court no-show for cor­rup­tion case

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) is mulling ex­tra­dit­ing Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader, Mo­thetjoa Metsing (pic­tured), from South Africa after the for­mer deputy premier ig­nored a call to ap­pear in court last week to an­swer to a cor­rup­tion charge.

DCEO spokesper­son, ‘Matl­hokomelo Senoko, told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day that they had tele­phon­i­cally con­tacted Mr Metsing early last week to re­mind him to ap­pear in court over the case later that week. The DCEO had been prob­ing Mr Metsing over sus­pi­cious de­posits that were made into his bank ac­counts three years ago.

She said the LCD leader, who is ex­iled in South Africa, hung up the phone and did not show up as was re­quired. Mr Metsing fled the coun­try in Au­gust this year cit­ing a tipoff from a “trusted source” about a “plot” to “as­sas­si­nate” him.

“The case the DCEO has against him was sup­posed to be heard in court to­wards the end of last week,” Ms Senoko said.

“We called him (Mr Metsing) ear­lier last week ask­ing him to come home for the court case. He dropped the phone on us.”

It is un­der­stood that the anti-cor­rup­tion body has been work­ing with the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) to ex­tra­dite Mr Metsing.

How­ever, Ms Senoko said the DCEO was work­ing on its own and would not be drawn to elab­o­rate on their plans.

“We are work­ing on our own on this case, and we will work on this mat­ter our own way,” she stated.

Au­thor­i­ta­tive sources told this news­pa­per that plans were nonethe­less afoot to seek Mr Metsing’s ex­tra­di­tion.

“If a sus­pect in a crim­i­nal case ab­sconds and seeks refugee in a for­eign coun­try with which we have an ex­tra­di­tion ar­range­ment, there is no other op­tion but to in­voke that op­tion,” said a source who asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

LMPS spokesper­son, In­spec­tor Mpiti Mopeli, quelled spec­u­la­tion that Mr Metsing was wanted by the po­lice, con­firm­ing the DCEO’S stance that it was han­dling the case on its own.

“The po­lice are not look­ing for Ntate Metsing,” Insp Mopeli said.

For his part, Mr Metsing re­fused to com- ment on the mat­ter, when con­tacted yes­ter­day. He stressed to this re­porter that the “is­sues” he has with the DCEO were pri­vate.

“Please al­low me not to com­ment on the mat­ter. If the DCEO has taken my is­sues with them to the news­pa­pers, please al­low me not to talk about them be­cause I don’t think they should be­come a topic of dis­cus­sion in the public me­dia. So, please let me not be part of this,” he said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched in light of sus­pi­cious de­posits into Mr Metsing’s bank ac­counts be­tween 2013 and 2014. Mr Metsing al­legedly re­ceived M328 000 and M118 000 be­tween April 2013 and June 2013. A de­posit of M524 964 into one of his ac­counts was also not ex­plained.

This was after the con­tro­ver­sial al­lo­ca­tion of a M120 mil­lion ten­der to a com­pany known as Big Bravo Con­struc­tion Com­pany for the con­struc­tion of roads in the Ha-matala and Ha-leqele villages of Maseru.

Big Bravo Con­struc­tion was en­gaged for the up­grad­ing of Matala Phase One and Matala to Ha Leqele Bus Stop roads in 2014.

The com­pany is al­leged to have won the ten­der at Mr Metsing’s in­sti­ga­tion. It nonethe­less was ac­cused of do­ing shoddy work and leav­ing road works un­com­pleted about two months be­fore the con­tract ended in 2015.

The com­pany was awarded the M120 mil­lion ten­der in what com­peti­tors al­leged could have been a fraud­u­lent process.

The al­leged du­bi­ous de­posits into Mr Metsing’s bank ac­counts hap­pened at a time when Mr Metsing was local govern­ment min­is­ter and deputy prime min­is­ter in the tri­par­tite coali­tion govern­ment led by Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane in 2014.

DCEO in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that Mr Metsing had appointed Local Govern­ment Deputy Principal Sec­re­tary Ntai Makoetje as his del­e­gate on the eval­u­a­tion and ad­ju­di­ca­tion panel, which as­sessed ten­ders.

Mr Makoetje was sum­moned to the DCEO in Au­gust this year and later taken to a Maseru po­lice sta­tion to have his fin­ger­prints and pic­tures taken. The move was os­ten­si­bly part of prepa­ra­tions for the in­sti­tut­ing of fraud and cor­rup­tion charges over the award­ing of the M120 mil­lion ten­der.

The probe also re­vealed the fact that the ini­tial eval­u­a­tion report had been re­vised to favour Big Bravo Con­struc­tion Com­pany.

How­ever, Mr Metsing has pre­vi­ously dis­missed the DCEO in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a ploy by his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies to tar­nish his rep­u­ta­tion.

Im­pec­ca­ble sources have told this pub­li­ca­tion that the cor­rup­tion case may just be one of many other charges likely to be lev­elled at the for­mer deputy premier.

“He is likely to face charges over crimes com­mit­ted dur­ing the ten­ure of the sev­en­party coali­tion govern­ment, such as Po­lice Con­sta­ble (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng’s dis­ap­pear­ance and sub­se­quent mur­der,” said the sources.

PC Khetheng was al­legedly killed by his col­leagues in March 2016 and his ex­humed body was laid to rest in Au­gust this year.

LCD deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, has since been charged with PC Khetheng’s mur­der along with four po­lice of­fi­cers. He has since fled the coun­try claim­ing an “as­sas­si­na­tion plot” after be­ing granted bail.

The sources said the law en­force­ment author­i­ties wanted to tread care­fully with Mr Metsing’s mooted ex­tra­di­tion since it would re­quire a clear cut crim­i­nal case for South Africa to ac­qui- esce to the re­quest.

“They are likely go­ing to use the cor­rup­tion case in re­quest­ing for Ntate Metsing’s ex­tra­di­tion if it comes to that,” said the sources.

Ex­tra­di­tion can be dif­fi­cult to achieve if the case in­volved is deemed po­lit­i­cal. But sources said the case against Mr Metsing was clearly crim­i­nal. The DCEO would nonethe­less need to make that very cat­e­gor­i­cal since the cor­rup­tion-bust­ing body sus­pects that Mr Metsing would want to politi­cize the is­sue to ward off be­ing ex­tra­dited.

Dr Tha­bane de­clared Mr Metsing, a “fugi­tive from jus­tice” who fled to avoid fac­ing cor­rup­tion charges in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times last month.

“He must go and talk to (Borotho) Mat­soso (the head of the DCEO) be­cause Mat­soso has a file on him,” said Dr Tha­bane. “All Mat­soso will ask him is to go to court and prove his in­no­cence. He (Metsing) must come back and an­swer cor­rup­tion charges. We will not mo­lest him. We will give him pro­tec­tion to go to court un­til the case is over.”

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