LRA boss quizzed on search

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MASERU — Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) Commissioner General, Thabo Letjama, said the investigation team had no intention to break in when they raided textile firm, Tony Textile, in March 2005.
Letjama was being cross-examined yesterday by Advocate Christo Van Schalkwyk SC on behalf of Ashraff Abubaker, a local businessman who is facing seven counts of theft, fraud and defeating the ends of justice.
Also facing the same charges are local lawyer, Steve Buys, and the deputy sheriff Tsebo Monyako.
The three 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) Ltd in Maseru.
Buys was practicing as an attorney and liquidator.
Abubaker had successfully filed an application to liquidate Tony Textile on behalf of Lesotho Oils Mills and Soap Factory which he owned.
Testifying yesterday, Letjama said the three had barred the LRA investigating team from getting access onto the premises.
The three also allegedly obstructed the team by withholding information on March 10, 2005.
Letjama told High Court Judge Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi and two assessors that when they went to the business premise after receiving information that some garments were to be removed, they were expecting cooperation.
The commissioner general, responding to questions from defence lawyer Van Schalkwyk, said: “When we went there we anticipated cooperation. My understanding was that we had to go with police since it was during the night and in operations of this kind you do not know what would happen.”
“When you get cooperation you do not break anything, but in the event that this does not go well, you have to use what the law provides,” Letjama said.
“When we did not get cooperation we had to break into the premises.”
Letjama said he acted after he got credible information from his informer.
He told the court that he could not recall whether he disclosed the name of the informer to the team “as all of us at LRA took an oath of secrecy”.
After there was confusion surrounding the underground store and they were denied access by Abubaker, Letjama said, he had to call the informer again for more information.
When asked whether he took any notes about the report he received on March 10-11 2005, the commissioner general said he could not recall.
He told the court that he could also not remember whether there was a photographer to take pictures that night.
He however confirmed that there was one the following day.
The defence lawyer was referring to photographs which were handed in court as part of evidence.The accused have pleaded not guilty. The trial continues.

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