‘LEC official murdered over M170 million probe’

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Tsitsi Matope and ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE family of the late Thibello Nteso, the Head of Internal Audit at the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), who was gunned down in Maseru last year,  says he was probably murdered to frustrate his probe into an alleged embezzlement of funds totalling in excess of M170 million at the state-owned power utility.

Mr Nteso’s family this week narrated its deep frustration at the slow pace of police investigations into his murder while also disclosing that they suspected his killing was connected to a forensic audit, in which preliminary findings had pointed to massive embezzlement of funds.

Mr Nteso was shot and killed on the night of 6 February 2017, allegedly by two police constables who were guarding the residence of former Police Commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, in Maseru West.

Almost a year after his killing, the police are still to complete investigations into the killing, although Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli yesterday said the investigations were now at an advanced stage.

“Investigations are almost through and we have some suspects but they have not yet been arrested. We have not established why he was killed,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

However, some officers close to the investigation, told this publication that the absence of a government autopsy report was delaying progress in the case.

“The autopsy report is critical to the successful prosecution of the suspects, who include a senior superintendent, senior inspector and two constables.

“We cannot quickly proceed with the case because there is need for evidence to substantiate the cause of death. This can help us build a water-tight case and for the courts to also make a well-informed judgment based on scientific evidence. As we speak, we are considering other ways to deal with this matter because the crucial autopsy report is delaying the finalisation of the investigations,” one of the investigating officers who declined to be named, said yesterday.

Despite their identification as suspects, the four are still reporting for duty.

Dr Thlabi Moorosi, the pathologist who is supposed to produce the report, is said to have made several excuses, at times blaming poor quality pictures for delaying its release.

Ordinarily it takes a few weeks to release an autopsy report but in this case it has already taken more than 10 months.

Dr Moorosi yesterday said he was facing some challenges producing the report but said it would be ready by Monday next week. He refused to elaborate on the nature of the challenges.

“I have experienced some challenges preparing the report, though I can’t reveal them to you. But what I can promise is that the report will be submitted to the police by Monday next week,” Dr Moorosi said.

The deceased’s younger brother, Tankiso Nteso yesterday told the Lesotho Times that his brother had confided in him that he had been handling a big case of embezzlement of funds from LEC coffers involving more than M170 million.

It is understood his forensic audit had contributed to the suspension of the Managing Director and the Chief Finance Officer.

Mr Tankiso Nteso said his family had hoped that by now the suspects would have been arrested as they were known.

He said the family had engaged a private investigator and pathologist from South Africa soon after realising that some police officers were involved in the killing. They also suspected that there was more to the shooting.

The private pathologist, Mr Nteso said, had conducted the post-mortem alongside Dr Moorosi and released his own report within two weeks. However, a government autopsy report is required to support the private one in court to foster evidentiary transparency.

“We had hoped that the police would by now have gotten to the bottom of my brother’s shooting as we believe this was a well-orchestrated hit linked to his work,” Mr Nteso said.

He said findings by the private investigator had established a possible motive of his killing, which was to silence him over the probe.

Mr Nteso further explained that while there were some who would have wanted to silence his brother, one senior politician in the former ruling coalition (name supplied) was also looking to exploit the probe into the embezzlement of funds to appoint his cronies to the helm of the LEC.

“My brother had told me that he was shocked when his colleague (name supplied) at work told him that a senior politician in the top four of the then government had instructed that he (the late Mr Nteso) should work fast on the issue at the LEC.

“This would enable the politician to appoint his crony as Managing Director,” Mr Nteso said.

The office of the LEC Acting Managing Director, Tankiso Mots’oikha, was contacted for a comment and they promised to call back to provide information on the latest developments on the forensic audit in question. They had not called back by the time of going to print last night.

However, in the police investigations, two senior police officers are accused of giving out orders to tamper with the crime scene, which included planting false evidence to suggest that there was a shoot-out between the late Mr Nteso and the two constables.

One officer is alleged to have fired the now deceased’s firearm to manufacture false evidence against the deceased in order to protect the constables and those who ordered the hit.

The two constables claimed they had suspected a plan to attack the then Police Commissioner Letsoepa when they went to check the car, which was parked at a reserved space near his residence.

Their suspicions were triggered by a firearm holder they saw inside the car. They decided to monitor the situation until around 8pm when they heard someone starting the car and rushed to stop the driver.

However, Mr Nteso was already driving away, prompting the two constables to open fire, hitting the car several times and causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. It was also raining on the night in question.

It is alleged Mr Nteso managed to open the door of his car while it was still moving and fell out. He was shot once in the hip area and the same bullet also penetrated the other leg.

He was rushed to the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

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