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Two face M1m fraud charge



Leisa Leisanyane

MOHALE’S HOEK – TWO officials of the Ministry of Small Businesses appeared before the Mohale’s Hoek Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing 31 counts of fraud and theft.

The prosecution alleges that Thandi Lesita, an assistant marketing officer for the ministry, and ’Maretšepile Mahanetsa who is an enumerator acting as an assistant marketing officer, stole M1 million from the ministry and a private company.

The two are said to have contravened section 68(1) read with section 26(1) of the Penal Code in that they defrauded the government, the Wool and Mohair Association and BKB (Pty) Ltd which is a South African company that imports wool and mohair from Lesotho.

It is alleged that the two women caused BKB to pay ghost farmers.

The women allegedly cheated BKB into paying Likhabiso Lefalatsa, Papiso Tšotetsi, Ralebonojane Rapholo and Thato Masheane who were just imaginary people.

The prosecution says Lesita was responsible for organising the shipment of wool and mohair to Port Elizabeth in South Africa and handled documents from shearing sheds in areas such as Qaqatu, Ntjepeleng, Mpharane and ’Masemousu in Mohale’s Hoek.

Lesita was also responsible for preparing balance sheets, dispatching account sales to farmers. She also coordinated the relationship between the ministry and BKB.

Mahanetsa worked in the ministry as an enumerator and reported to Lesita.  Her duties included assisting in conducting market research or survey.

She was tasked to handle wool and mohair records when she was transferred to Mohale’s Hoek since there was no district field recorder.

The prosecution says around December 2015, it was discovered that there were suspicious account sales as there were some farmers who were paid by BKB but were unknown to farmers’ associations.

Moreover, there was an inconsistency between the quality of wool and mohair sold or delivered to BKB on some farmers’ or association’s temporary receipts.

It was also discovered that the quality of wool or mohair for the same farmers or associations reflected on the account sales were reduced or deducted.

The investigation also revealed that Lesita had made the payment to herself under the name Likhabiso Lefalatsa.

It is alleged that Lesita fraudulently reduced the quantities of wool and mohair of some other farmers or associations and then added that to the non-existent farmers so that such ghost farmers would receive payment from BKB to her benefit.

As for Mahanetsa, it was discovered that she acted in common purpose with Lesita in effecting changes on the qualities of wool and mohair of the farmers or the associations and created non-existent farmers so that they would be paid by BKB.

Having acted in common purpose in pursuit of these fraudulent endeavours, the two women are said to have stolen over M1 million.

Both the women are out on bail of M7 000 on condition that they surrender their passports to the senior clerk of the court and that the passports should be surrendered to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), which has investigated the case.

Another condition was that they should not apply for new passports, but they can only be provided to them on proven urgent matters.

They were also ordered to attend remands every two months.

They are expected to appear before court in Mohale’s Hoek on November 7.

Meanwhile, the DCEO’s prosecutor Advocate Mamello Mafelesi has hauled a former Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) employee to the Maseru magistrate’s court for allegedly trying to acquire a company vehicle through illegal means.

The crown alleges that Palesa Monongoaha of Thetsane West “unlawfully and intentionally” took WASCO’s Toyota Fortuner “with the intention of permanently depriving” the company of the vehicle “after her resignation from WASCO” and continued to use it for her private gain.

Monongoaha appeared in court on Monday.

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