Tha­bane speaks on re­la­tion­ship with UK ty­coon Banks

Lesotho Times - - News - Staff Re­porter

PRIME Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane has ac­knowl­edged re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from the con­tro­ver­sial Bri­tish busi­ness­man Ar­ron Banks while he was in ex­ile in South Africa.

Dr Tha­bane made the ad­mis­sion in BBC in­ter­view which was car­ried on the broad­caster’s web­site this week.

Mr Banks has come un­der se­ri­ous crit­i­cism in his home coun­try for al­legedly brib­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Le­sotho to se­cure a di­a­mond prospect­ing li­cence.

This week Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Science and Tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane was forced to de­fend him­self af­ter Bri­tish me­dia prod­ded him over more than M1 mil­lion that was trans­ferred to his per­sonal ac­count held with a South African Bank in 2013 and 2014.

The BBC queried why the funds were trans­ferred to Mr ‘Maserib­ane’s per­sonal ac­count and he said he en­joyed a good friend­ship with Mr Banks.

Dr Tha­bane also opened up on his re­la­tion­ship with the con­tro­ver­sial Mr Banks, say­ing the lat­ter was a good friend who helped him with money to “buy food and soap” while he was in ex­ile in South Africa.

Asked by the BBC if he was per­son­ally as­sisted by Mr Banks, Dr Tha­bane said: “Well, I think we were good friends”.

Asked what sort of as­sis­tance he re­ceived, Dr Tha­bane said: “Well, I think we needed to buy food”, he said with a chuckle and added: “Se­ri­ously and to buy some soap to wash.”

Dr Tha­bane first fled to South Africa af­ter the 30 Au­gust 2014 at­tempted coup against his first gov­ern­ment by the Le­sotho De­fence Force which was then un­der the com­mand of Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli.

The coup fol­lowed the Lt-gen Kamoli’s re­fusal to make way for the late Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao who had been ap­pointed by Dr Tha­bane to take over from Lt-gen Kamoli as the army com­man­der.

Dr Tha­bane fled the coun­try again in 2015 and only re­turned in Fe­bru­ary 2017 to pre­pare for the 3 June 2017 na­tional elec­tions.

The BBC re­port also said Mr Banks also paid Mr Maserib­ane’s rentals while he was in ex­ile in South Africa.

While both Mr Banks and Mr ‘Maserib­ane con­firm the trans­ac­tions, they re­fute that the money was meant to in­flu­ence the gov­ern­ment into grant­ing him a di­a­mond prospect­ing li­cence in 2014. The BBC also said Mr Banks re­futed Dr Tha­bane’s claims that he funded the lat­ter.

Mr Banks is pop­u­larly known for bankrolling Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union which has now been coined “Brexit”.

Pre­vi­ous re­ports have linked him with Mr ‘Maserib­ane’s Ba­sotho Na­tional party (BNP) whose cam­paigns he has pre­vi­ously funded to a re­ported £350 000 in 2012.

The BBC re­port in­di­cates that while he was ap- ply­ing for a di­a­mond prospect­ing li­cence in 2013 and 2014, Mr Banks trans­ferred £65 000 (about M1 162 192) into Mr ‘Maserib­ane’s per­sonal bank ac­count.

Part of the money, £16 000 a few weeks be­fore his prospect­ing li­cence was granted.

At the time that the trans­ac­tions were made, Mr ‘Maserib­ane was Min­is­ter of Gen­der, Youth, Sports and Recre­ation.

Mr Banks trans­ferred £16 000 to Mr ‘Maserib­ane just weeks be­fore his prospect­ing was granted in 2014.

The BBC also in­ter­viewed South African an­ticor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Paul O’sul­li­van, who was quoted as say­ing that he would launch a probe into Mr Banks’ deal­ings.

“We will be car­ry­ing out fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions of our own, what we call foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions and then I will be open­ing a crim­i­nal docket,” Mr O’ Sul­li­van told the BBC.

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