Businessman faces theft, fraud charges


MASERU — A prominent businessman, Ashraff Abubaker, and lawyer, Steve Buys, appeared in the High Court this week facing charges of theft, fraud and defeating the ends of justice.
A sheriff at the High Court, Tsebo Monyako, also appeared in court charged with the same crimes.
The three are facing seven counts
of theft, fraud and defeating the
ends of justice.
They are accused of contravening regulations of the Customs and Excise Act No.10 of 1982.
According to the indictment, Abubaker was employed by, and conducted the business of Lesotho Oil Mills and Soap Factory (Pty) Limited at Plot 27 C Industrial Area in Maseru.
Buys was practising as an attorney and liquidator.
Abubaker had successfully filed an application to liquidate Tony Textile on behalf of the Lesotho Oil Mills and Soap Factory (Pty) Limited which he owned.
Buys was appointed liquidator on behalf of Tony Textile and TW Garments, according to the indictment, while Monyako took control of the two liquidated firms on behalf of the liquidator.
The crown alleges that between June 2004 and March 2005 at Industrial Area, Maseru, and alternatively at Maputsoe-Leribe, the accused stole manufactured goods belonging to the two companies.
Testifying on Tuesday before Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi, the commissioner general of the Lesotho Revenue Authority, Thabo Letjama, told the High Court how they pounced on Abubaker’s business premises and confiscated goods worth more than M9 million which they suspected had been stolen.
Letjama said they found packed boxes of garments in the basement of a premise run by Abubaker in the Maseru industrial area during a raid on March 10 and 11, 2005.
The court heard that the goods which were worth M9 042 556.55 belonged to two companies — TW Garments and Tony Textile, which were under liquidation.
Letjama told the court that a combined team of LRA investigators, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences, and the police went to the premises of Abubaker on March 10, 2005.
“We cut the lock of burglar proof to gain access to the basement store where we found boxes full of finished garments packed against the brick wall,” Letjama said.
The stairs leading to the basement were covered with steel plate doors.
Letjama said he and his team of investigators lifted the steal cover in the presence of the accused businessman.
“When we lifted the cover to the stairs going underground I immediately saw Mr Abubaker’s eyes reddening and he looked worried,” he said.
“We asked for the keys and he said they were with the liquidator, Mr (Steve) Buys.”
Letjama added that the search team comprising LRA investigators, DCEO officers, and police then decided to break the burglar bars and gained entry into the building. Thereafter Abubaker was arrested by the police who went on to lock the place.
Letjama had earlier told the court that on March 10, 2005 around 7pm he got a call from his investigators that they were being denied access to Abubaker’s place.
The commissioner general said he immediately rushed there and found some LRA and DCEO officers and police outside the gate.
When Abubaker came out after 20 minutes, the court heard, he was
informed that there was suspicion that he was keeping stolen goods and he was making efforts to transfer them from the premises to somewhere else.
“I told him that we wanted to make an inspection and he took us to his office where we failed to find any goods,” Letjama said.
The search went on until 11pm.
The witness said he asked Abubaker that they postpone the inspection to the following day.
It was then that they discovered that there were finished garments hidden in packed boxes in the basement.
The trial continues.


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