Trio granted bail in M14 million fraud case



MASERU – Three of the five individuals accused of defrauding the Maseru City Council (MCC) out of M14 million earmarked for the Mpilo Boulevard intersection construction project were granted bail this week. The accused appeared before Magistrate ’Makopano Rantšo and are scheduled to return to court on May 15 for a remand hearing.

The three released on bail include: Molete Selete, 60, from Ha Mabote, Berea, who serves as the town clerk at MCC and is referred to as the first accused; Matsoso Tikoe from Qoaling, Maseru, the City Engineer at MCC; and, Kenneth Leong, a Malaysian national and project manager at SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture. They are charged alongside Molefe Nthabane, 62, from Old Europa, Maseru, a consultant at MCC and SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, a construction company legally registered in Lesotho and the contractor for the Mpilo Boulevard intersections.

Nthabane, who is reportedly in South Africa, did not appear in court on Wednesday this week and will join his co-accused at a later stage. Selete, Tikoe, and Nthabane were each released on M5,000 bail, along with a surety of M200,000 or equivalent property. Nthabane was granted bail in absentia. Leong and SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture were granted bail set at M10,000, with a surety of M400,000 or equivalent property.

All bail conditions require the accused to attend remand hearings, refrain from interfering with crown witnesses, and appear for trial. Advocate Lebohang Motelle from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) informed the court that Nthabane, although absent, was in South Africa and would be joining the proceedings later. She emphasised the seriousness of the charges and urged the court to carefully consider each case before granting bail.

Legal representation for the accused included Adv. Tšabeha for Selete, Adv. Lepeli Molapo for Nthabane, and Adv. Koeli Ntebele for Leong and the SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture. Molapo, representing the defence, said all accused individuals had co-operated with the authorities during the investigation process.

He highlighted that Selete, Tikoe, and Nthabane occupy high-profile public office positions, while Leong and the SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture are foreign entities involved in the Mpilo Boulevard intersection construction project. Leong also serves as one of the directors of the SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture. The charges stem from allegations of fraud that occurred between 2021 and 2023 at MCC offices within the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship.

The accused are alleged to have colluded in a scheme to unlawfully secure funds by submitting a false request for the release of M14 million to the ministry, ostensibly for the Mpilo Boulevard intersection construction project. It is further alleged that at the time of the submission, the accused knew that the advance guarantee required for the project had already been exhausted.

As a result, MCC erroneously processed a payment of M14 million into the SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture’s account at Standard Lesotho Bank, resulting in a financial loss to MCC. Investigations into the alleged theft are ongoing.

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