MEC treasurer loses appeal in M17 million scam



MASERU – Movement for Economic Change (MEC) Treasurer, Makhetha Thaele, has failed in his bid to get the freeze on his bank accounts lifted, after the appeal court deemed his argument unconvincing.

The High Court froze the MEC finance chief’s accounts in November last year after police started probing irregular transactions in his accounts.

Thaele – who is also suspected of being part of a cabal that defrauded government of M17 million in 2018 – lost the appeal last Friday.

This after appeal court judges said his reasons lacked gravitas and were not persuasive enough for the court to cancel the High Court order.

The Police Crime Unit in November 2018 successfully petitioned the High Court to freeze Thaele’s accounts while investigations continue.

Thaele has also been indicted before magistrates for defrauding government of M17 000 000 between October and November 2018.

He has been charged along with five others – Abiel Moletsane (30), Mokone Bereng (35) ’Mamothibeli Titi (34), Joel Lerotholi (30), and Thabiso Mapetla (41).

It is alleged that Bereng, Titi and Moletsane in October of the same year defrauded the sub-accountancy department of the Ministry of Finance in Leribe, by hacking into its system to purchase vehicles from various car dealerships through electronic transfers.

They also transferred funds into their accounts held with South African banks opened using false identities.

Police investigations later linked Thaele, Mapetla and Lerotholi to the fraud.

High Court judge Justice Ts`eliso Monaphathi on November 26, 2018 froze Makhetha’s business accounts as an interim order and on February 13, 2019 confirmed it.

Thaele appealed and asked the court to cancel the restraining order granted against his two companies – MF Petroleum PTY LTD and MF Holdings PTY LTD.

Thaele argued the restraining order was erroneously granted in that it effectively shut down his business.

He also said the amount sought to be preserved was M482 144,45 yet the amount preserved was over a million maloti.

Further, Thaele said there was no connection between the criminal charges he is facing in the magistrates court and the restraining order sought against his companies.

He also said the High Court ruling shutting down his business until finalisation of the criminal proceedings was irregularly granted. The order could not stand in the absence of the reasons.

In its judgment, the court said failure to furnish reasons was unacceptable from a rule of law perspective but said dismissing the appeal because of the unavailability of the reasoned judgment would prejudice the other side.

On why only M482 144, 45 ought to have been frozen as reflected in the court papers, the court said the amount was only a suspect transaction while the orders sought did not have to be limited to the amount.

The court said: “There was reason to suspect theft of more than M17 million.”

Acting Justice of the Appeal Court, Justice Van Der Westhuizen said the circumstances presented by Thaele in the High Court with regard to why a restraining order could not be granted were not convincing enough to cancel the High Court order.

Thaele, in his affidavit, had argued: “The ex parte is prejudicial…and causes daily prejudice, the business operations have been put to halt. Employees of the respondent’s companies had not received their salaries for November 2018 and unless the bank accounts unfrozen, they will not have food to eat during the Christmas break.”

But the court dismissed this argument, saying: “The third appellant neither asked for reasonable living and business expenses – for example to look after the need of workers nor proposed how they should be met on the relevant property. I am unable to conclude that the High Court erred or misdirected itself on this point.”

The judge also dismissed Thaele’s contention that there was nothing linking him to the criminality and therefore the accounts should not have been frozen.

Justice Westhuizen pointed out that Thaele informed the court that he is a shareholder and director of MF Holdings.

Thaele is currently free on bail but stands accused of contravening section 57 (1) and 2 (a) of the Penal Code Act number 6 of 2010 read with section 109 of the constitution in that he, along with his co-accused, between October 2018 and early November, acting in common purpose, unlawfully stole money belonging to the government by transferring it electronically to their different bank accounts.


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