. . . as LCD leader in court no-show for corruption case
THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is mulling extraditing Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, 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 tip-off 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 comment 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 seven-party 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 acquiesce 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.”