THE government has withdrawn a violation of tax laws case against the re-appointed Court of Appeal President Justice Kananelo Mosito in what could be an attempt to dilute a court case challenging his re-appointment.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, the Minister of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights, Mr Lebohang Hlaele confirmed that a decision had been made to withdraw the tax evasion case.
Mr Hlaele also briefed Journalists about his ministry’s mandate and current affairs.
Justice Mosito was re-appointed to the top sit of the judiciary early last month after he previously left the post under controversial circumstances that included his resignation and an impeachment.
Mr Hlaele said he was informed by the Acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane that she had decided to withdraw a case in which Justice Mosito is charged with failing to file some tax returns to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).
Advocate Motinyane was appointed acting DPP on Monday following a leave pending retirement for King’s Counsel Leaba Thetsane, who is the substantive DPP.
Advocate Thetsane went on leave for 30 days starting from 5 October 2017, with the government intending to buy-out the remaining period from the lapse of his leave to July 2018, when he will be retiring from the service.
Since it is now clear that Advocate Thetsane will no longer be in office, Advocate Motinyane was on Monday appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the Acting DPP.
“This morning Advocate Motinyane told me she looked at five files in the office without being prosecuted.
“Among those files was the one about the criminal charges against Ntate Mosito. She told me she has already decided to withdraw such criminal charges against him because she considered they had no strong case against him.
“It is the case involving his tax charges,” he said.
He added: “Professor Mosito was appointed on 20 January 2015, as president and the past regime kicked him out on the basis of that case. He resigned after realizing that he was being politically persecuted.
“However, he was re-appointed and some individuals challenged the appointment on the basis that they were aware of that file, and he was not sworn in. How can we stand on the court’s way when the courts say they can’t swear him in?”
He distanced himself from the decision to withdraw a case against Justice Mosito, saying it was the decision made by the Acting DPP.
The withdrawal of the case against Justice Mosito also coincides with the agreement between his lawyers and the office of the Attorney General to quash the findings of the tribunal that investigated him and advised King Letsie III to remove Justice Mosito from the apex court’s presidency last year.
Lawyers from both sides on Friday last week prepared a deed of settlement in the matter in which they agreed to remove some of the findings of the tribunal.
But, the High Court acting judge Justice Keketso Moahloli directed the lawyers to prepare their submissions to address him so that he could make a decision whether to endorse that agreement as an order of court or not. The matter is still pending.
The two coinciding issues – withdrawal of the charges and the intent to sign an agreement to quash the tribunal findings – is a move to weaken a pending case before the Constitutional Court in which four top lawyers are challenging re-appointment of Justice Mosito, according to one of the lawyers who wished to remain anonymous.
Four prominent lawyers, King’s Counsel Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau, Motiea Teele and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika have since challenged the re-appointment of Justice Mosito as president of the Court of Appeal.
The case is yet to be heard.
Justice Mosito was charged with a tax offence of allegedly not submitting his income tax returns to LRA since 1996 to 2013.
The charge was preferred by the outgoing DPP Advocate Leaba Thetsane KC after he was first appointed as the president of the apex court.
A tribunal was established by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government to investigate the charge against Justice Mosito with the sole purpose to remove him from the seat.
The said tribunal released its report to King Letsie III and it recommended that Justice Mosito should be removed from the presidency of the Court of Appeal because he was not fit to hold the position.
However, Justice Mosito resigned before the report could be submitted, citing he was being persecuted by the then government.
While the tax charges were still hanging on his head, he lodged a court application before the Constitutional Court challenging the legality of the charges. He lost the case both in the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeal, with the Court of Appeal ruling the DPP had a right to institute such charges.