Suspended top cop not yet off the hook

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MASERU — Suspended deputy police commissioner Motsotuoa Ntaote is not yet off the hook despite his acquittal on fraud charges last month.

The state has appealed against the High Court judgment which acquitted him.

High Court Judge Justice Gabriel Mofolo last month acquitted Ntaote of fraud charges saying there was a conspiracy within the police to get Ntaote convicted.

Ntaote, 44, was charged with fraud for allegedly misrepresenting to the treasury department that he and other police officers were entitled to the full per diem rate for undertaking two official trips.

The prosecution said Ntaote was entitled to a quarter of the normal per diem rate for the trip to South Africa for the Southern African Regional Police Corporation Chiefs Organisation (SARPCCO) games in September 2005.

Ntaote was also accused of defrauding the government by misrepresenting to the treasury department that he and two other police officers were entitled to a full per diem rate for the trip to South Africa to attend Macro Surveillance meetings in December 2006.

Justice Mofolo however acquitted him. 

Mofolo criticised the crown for leading unsatisfactory evidence in an endeavour to get Ntaote convicted.

Mofolo said the evidence showed that officers in the police accounts section made their own discretion to give Ntaote and other police officers full per diem rate.

He said the financial controller ‘Mamahlohonolo Peko, who testified in court against Ntaote, was responsible for the full rate that was given to Ntaote.

“Peko and her company exercised their own discretion to give the accused together with other police officers full per diem rate despite the initial authorisation of a quarter rate by the minister,” said Mofolo.

But the crown is not satisfied.

It has appealed against Mofolo’s judgment on grounds that Mofolo has erred and misdirected himself when passing verdict on Ntaote’s case.

“The court a quo erred in accepting the evidence of the respondent (Ntaote) in preference to the evidence tendered by the crown witnesses and ought to have rejected the evidence of the respondent on the material issues in dispute,” the crown said in its grounds of appeal filed in the appeal court.

The crown also complains that Mofolo was erroneous in his finding that there was conspiracy within the police to get Ntaote convicted.

“The court a quo erred in finding, on a conspectus of all the evidence, that there was a conspiracy on the part of the hierarchy of the Lesotho Mounted Police and ought to have found that, even if there may have been some form of disagreement between the respondent and the commissioner of police, this could never have resulted in the creation of evidence such as that presented by the crown, as against the respondent,” the crown said.

Lesotho’s court of appeal will sit in October for its second session.

However it is not clear if the prosecution’s appeal against Mofolo’s judgment in Ntaote’s case will be heard in October because the appeal court has not yet released the roll of cases to be heard during the October session.

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