MASERU – The corruption fighting unit DCEO yesterday confirmed it is looking into reports some top politicians received colossal sums of money from controversial British businessman Arron Banks after promising to swing lucrative mining licences in Lesotho. In a follow-up to a 2017 Public Eyeexpose, British media was awash with reports Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Communications minister Thesele ‘Maseribane received hefty sums of money from Banks, who attracted public scorn in some British circles for financing the Brexit lobby.
Directorate for Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director-General Borotho Matsoso, told Public Eye ‘Maseribane himself invited the agency to probe the reports in a bid to clear his name. Both ‘Maseribane and Banks denied in interviews with Chanel 4 exchanging money corruptly, saying the money was either for humanitarian purposes or to prop up financialy strapped political party activities.
They claim the funds paid for the BNP policy conference in 2014, as well as the party’s 2015 elections campaign, covering transport, campaigning for candidates, as well as the party’s star rally at Setsoto Stadium in February 2015. According to Matsoso, apart from the fact that ‘Maseribane himself invited the DCEO to investigate him, as the country’s anti-corruption entity they could not just sit and do nothing “in the face of such allegations”.
“We have already launched an investigation into the allegations of receipt of bribery by Mr ‘Maseribane from Arron Banks. We could not just ignore allegations of that nature,” Matsoso said yesterday. “I can confirm that he (‘Maseribane) also invited us to investigate him. We have, as such, already made him aware that we have launched our investigation into the allegations.
“We have an agreement with government that regardless of who a person is, whether it be a minister or anybody holding a senior position, they should cooperate when the DCEO decides to investigate them,” Matsoso submitted. ‘Maseribane said this week he is willing to appear before the DCEO to be investigated “if need be”.
Thabane has admitted receiving donations from Banks but said he was not obliged to give anything in return. ‘Maseribane told this paper that while he did not deny receiving money from Banks, his conscience was clear because all monies he received were meant to fund BNP activities and were used for that purpose.
“What I can tell you is that I am ready to cooperate with the DCEO. I welcome any investigation into the bribery allegations against me. But the fact of the matter is that the monies were meant for the BNP election campaign funding and nothing else,” ‘Maseribane said on Tuesday this week.“The BNP’s 2015 policy conference was sponsored by Arron. For the first time when we went for elections in 2015, candidates were funded by the party to campaign in different constituencies across the country. The party was also able to print quality T-shirts, and hold its 2015 elections star rally at the Setsoto Stadium.”
In the Channel4 interview ‘Maseribane was grilled about his friendship with the British multi-millionaire and the coincidence between the flow of monies into his accounts and Arron securing mining licences. This happened in 2014 when ‘Maseribane was the Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation.
Speaking to Public Eye on Wednesday, ‘Maseribane wondered “what the hullabaloo is all about”, because Banks was not only a BNP funder but a family friend as well.Moreover, ‘Maseribane said he failed to understand why the focus was on him and the BNP, noting in 2014 when he was minister of gender, he was able to secure monies from Banks for self-help projects for women, which led to three local women getting M500 000 each from Banks, to start women-owned businesses adding that “some of the proposed businesses never saw the light of day”.
“Three popular local women each received M500 000. The monies were deposited into their bank accounts, but nobody has ever asked about those monies, whether they were aimed towards projects for which they were intended. Why?” ‘Maseribane asked. The BNP leader further noted that although he was being “victimized” for being corrupt and accepting bribes from Banks, the whole saga was not about him but the British multi-millionaire, who was being investigated back home in Britain after funding the Brexit campaign.
“It’s all about Brexit. It’s a witch-hunt against Arron Banks. It has nothing to do with me but Arron who financed a successful Brexit campaign. I did not squander anybody’s money here in Lesotho. All the monies I received were donations to the BNP election campaign and policy conference,” ‘Maseribane emphasised.
A March 5, 2015 online issue of The Times UK News reported Banks, who is bankrolling the United Kingdom Independent Party (Ukip) as having openly declared support for the BNP, further expressing disappointment over the fact that the party had only won one constituency in that same year’s poll.
“Arron Banks, the multi-millionaire tycoon and former Tory donor who is now bankrolling Ukip, has made a shock move to support the BNP. Nigel Farage (Ukip leader) will be relieved to hear, however, that Banks has not lurched farther to the right but rather about 8,000 miles south, where he has been advising the troubled right-wing Basotho National Party in Lesotho on their campaign for this week’s elections,” the article in the The Times UK News read.
“They won only a single constituency (which doesn’t bode too well for Nigel) but may well still form part of a coalition (which bodes rather better).”A former Conservative Party donor, Banks who is reportedly worth GBP100 million came to prominence in October 2014 when he donated £1 million to the Ukip and has since donated in total £6 million to a variety of anti-European Union campaigns as the cross-party Grassroots Out.
Meanwhile, ‘Maseribane did not say whether or not the BNP’s party funding from Banks had been declared, as per the National Assembly Elections Act, 2011 which directs that any funding of M200 000 or more should be declared to the Independent Electoral Commission. National Assembly Elections Act 2011, section 70 (2) stipulates that parties must declare funding to the tune of M200 000 or more, be they from local or foreign donorsDefault Basic Success warning Info Danger Primary