MASERU — A local businessman, Lebohang Ramone, is livid after claiming the police “clandestinely released” two Chinese nationals who swindled him of M600 000 worth of stock. Ramone, who is the director of EV Cosmetics, says the police arrested the two at Lakeside Hotel on February 17, 2013. He says the police promised to keep the two suspects at Pitso Ground overnight pending intervention by Trade Minister Temeki Tšolo and the Chinese ambassador Hu Dingxian.
But the next day, he says, the police went on to release the suspects behind his back. In a letter addressed to Minister of Police Prime Minister Thomas Thabane dated February 21, 2013, Ramone asked for the minister to intervene to recoup the losses he suffered in the botched business transaction. Ramone says he is now experiencing a serious cash flow problem in his business because of the transaction with the Chinese. “The two offered to distribute my products to their Chinese colleagues as they believed they could sell better than people who were already distributing my products,” Ramone said.
“The couple offered to sell my products in South Africa to their other Chinese businessmen.” He added: “They introduced me to one Chinese national who has businesses in South Africa whom they said I would be dealing with him when I export my products to South Africa.” Ramone said the new Chinese acquaintance promised that he would buy stock worth millions of rand. The new contact however disappeared when he asked questions about his businesses and when he wanted him to sign a business contract.
After his disappearance the first couple came back saying he could continue business with them and he agreed because they had in the past distributed his products. They had developed trust in each other to an extent that they even left their car in his care for some days. He made a mistake of giving them stock on credit, and they too, like that new contact they introduced to him, disappeared. This happened in August last year. “I contacted the South African police who said the deal was made in Lesotho so they could not help me,” he said.
“They warned me to stay away because (the Chinese man) might hurt me as he had made me go to Johannesburg twice and he never showed up for our meetings until I came back to Lesotho.” He said before Christmas last year he was informed that the two were in Bloemfontein. “I told the trade minister about the issue so that he could intervene in the matter. He asked me to write to him so that he could pass this matter to the Chinese ambassador. “The Chinese Ambassador told us that he could only interfere in this matter when he has proof that these were Chinese nationals,” he said.
But two weeks ago, Ramone got a tip-off that the two Chinese nationals were in Maseru and sent some of his employees to investigate. He said he then rushed to the Pitso Ground police and reported the matter with the hope that the Chinese would be arrested. The two suspects were then detained by the police only to “escape” under questionable circumstances. Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said Ramone had reported that he had been swindled of M250 000 and not M600 000 as now claimed. He also said the police could not arrest the Chinese nationals because there was no criminal offence in the business transaction with EV Cosmetics.
Masupha said this is a civil matter. “It should be clear the Chinese did not escape from lawful arrest,” Masupha told the Lesotho Times. “Police could not arrest those people as this was a civil matter and it would be illegal.” He however said the police were investigating how the couple left the police station especially with reports that they had used fake currency to pay their bill at the hotel.