. . . as tender scandal widens
MASERU – Yan Xie, the controversial businessman and Thomas Thabane’s top advisor who has been accused of conning an emerging construction company of M7 million has gone to ground, as the scandal swirling around him widens.
Xie, also known as John, was reportedly ill this week when Public Eye visited his offices at Jackpot Supermarket near Stopong and was not entertaining visitors.
Numerous calls to his cellphone #5888 2018 went unanswered as it emerged that Xie had used the same modus operandi to suck three other small construction companies into his web.
This he did – at least in the case involving Legends Construction – with the help of Home Affairs Principal Secretary Machabane Lemphane, court papers filed at the end of May this year show.
Three other companies claim to have lost varying amounts of money to Xie although two asked not to be named, arguing doing so could jeopardise their chances of recovering their dues.
The developing story this week had former Minister of Home Affairs Mokoto Hloaele and his erstwhile deputy Machesetsa Mofomobe differing starkly on who was briefed first about the alleged scam as they tried to distance themselves from the scandal.
Machesetsa this week told Public Eye that he first heard about the alleged scandal from Hloaele but the latter has fervently rebutted the claim and insisted that he first heard about the matter from the former.
According to an affidavit filed in the High Court, Legends Construction in 2018 won a M7 million tender to build Parkhomes for the Ministry of Home Affairs and were thereafter referred to Xie by Lemphane.
She told company directors Xie would finance the project.
Xie, demanded shares in the company as surety and to appoint an online administrator to manage the company’s account.
The administrator was to keep an eye on the cash flow.
But when they were in the middle of the project, the directors of Legend Construction learnt that they had been paid and the money, M7 million, had immediately been transferred to another account linked to Xie.
When the directors queried the transfer, Xie threw a tantrum to scare them off saying he had racked up huge bills buying material for the project.
The company’s problems were compounded when directors were stonewalled by Home Affairs ministry officials, Lemphane in particular, when they sought assistance.
They told this paper this week that they then approached the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mofomobe.
“Never did I ever communicate with the companies’ directors. What happened is that they reported the matter to the Minister (Hloaele) who in return briefed me and indicated that he was already working on their case. He was moved from the ministry before he could resolve the case,” Mofomobe said.
He added that: “All I know is that they went to Mr Hloaele and told him that the Ministry of Home Affairs had failed them.”
But Hloaele insists that he first heard about the matter from Machesetsa.
“I heard about this from Deputy Minister and instructed him to arrange a meeting with the directors of Legends Construction so that I could find out from them what had actually happened. I was transferred again before we could get to the bottom of the matter,” he said.
He was appointed Minister of Home Affairs in February this year and was moved to the Ministry of Education and Training in October.
Two months before he was removed, the directors of Legends Construction wrote to him requesting him to end the standoff between themselves, the ministry and Xie.
“The Principal Secretary did not have interest to assist us to intervene of which we decided to take this issue to the High Court. We therefore humbly request you to assist us in any how to have solution on this issue,” they wrote in their letter.
Hloaele said he had already heard about the matter from Mofomobe when he received the letter.
“I was however not able to get the PS’s side of the story. I was removed before I could to talk to the PS,” he said.
The directors this week corroborated Hloaele’s account. They said they spoke to Mofomobe first.
“We spoke to the deputy minister several times, he was willing to help us. We were discouraged by a sudden cabinet reshuffle which resulted in Ntate Hloaele being removed from that ministry,” Monaheng Letsie, one of the two company directors, said.
Lemphane has denied complicity in the matter.
“Why didn’t they return the money if they were paid before they finished the work? If they claim that they do not have the money because John took it as they allege, how does that have anything to do with the Ministry! We paid the money into the account they gave us when they signed the contract,” she said last week.