Nigerian human trafficker in the dock

Survivors share stories of deceit in Dubai

LIKELELI MAJARA and

SERIALONG LELUMA

MASERU – Police have arrested and put before court a Nigerian man for alleged involvement in human trafficking cases in which Basotho were lured to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on promises of lucrative jobs. The 30-year-old Sikiru Rasheed who resides at Ha Seoli appeared before the Maseru Magistrate Court on Tuesday to answer the human trafficking charges.

He is accused of contravening Section 5(1) and 3 of the Anti- Trafficking in Persons Act No 1 of 2011, and for not having proper documentations allowing him to reside in Lesotho. Rasheed reportedly deceived three Basotho Mohau Majara (21) from Lithoteng Ha Seoli, Khothatso Makuebu from Ha Rankhala Khubetsoana and Lerato Kaizer (21) from Moshoeshoe II in Maseru about into taking up job offers in Dubai, UAE.

He pleaded guilty to residing in the country without proper documentation, but pleaded not guilty of human trafficking. For the Crown, Advocate Ramolala Thaba rejected the not guilty plea on human trafficking. Narrating his ordeal before court Makuebu said Rasheed promised him an accounts manager position in Dubai – though he did not have any accounting qualification. He showed that while working at Progress Hair and Beauty Salon as a hair-dresser he met the Rasheed through Kaizer who gave him the Accused’s contacts.

Makuebu further said he then contacted Rasheed who after a week later asked him for his passport photo in order to prepare his travel documents. When all was set and done Rasheed gave the Makuebu M2 000 for his travel expenses. On arrival in Dubai, Khothatso said he stayed for a month without the promised job. After a month he then met one Aluu who he was told would be his boss.

“Aluu took me to a car company called Fugi, where I signed five papers, and one of them showed that my salary will be 10 000 dirham (AED),” Makuebu said. After working for a month and a week without pay as a car sales representative Makuebu confronted Aluu about his payment and the issue of plane ticket as his permit to stay in the country had expired. The confrontation resulted in an argument as the boss told him that he will only receive 6 243 AED.

He was told he would get the difference in his salary from Rasheed when he returned to Lesotho but he said he has not received the money from the Accused until now. Rasheed’s legal team challenged this testimony, arguing that it is the Makuebu who approached the Nigerian for a job, which Makuebu confirmed. Advocate Lehlohonolo Maseli asked the Makuebu if in any way he regretted going to Dubai, and he said if the opportunity presented itself again he would go back.

For his part Kaizer said he worked with Rasheed for a year at the Pioneer Mall at Exclusive Spa and Beauty Salon as a professional hair dresser. He said in 2021 Rasheed told him of a job opening in Dubai. Kaizer prepared his passport and all the needed health and Covid-19 test certificates. “On March 13, 2022, my Visa was ready and before I left I met with Rasheed and he gave me M1 500 for transport and a Covid test,” said Kaizer, adding that the agreement with was that he would be paid M28 000 after three months of employment.

Kaizer further explained that upon arrival in Dubai, he was contacted by Allu. On the second week of his stay in Dubai he was already trading (buying and selling oil shares) and he had a set target to reach 500 000 AED which he did within a week as he was trading without rest for an entire week. He was then asked to open two bank accounts; one with Emirates and the other with the Dubai Islamic Bank which would be used to pay him. But what surprised him was that he had no access to these accounts yet they were opened in his names.

In May, he said he asked about his salary and arguments arose as there were deductions made and he did not get what he was promised. After the confrontation he decided to return to Lesotho. On the day of his departure, he received an envelope containing his passport and 1 200 AED which is equivalent to M4 000. Kaizer encountered problems at the Dubai Airport when returning home after finding out that his visa had been cancelled by the company he worked for on allegations that he had fled from his home country.

He, however, managed to get home but has not yet received the M28 000 he was promised. Meanwhile, football player Mohau Majara told the court that he knew Rasheed from the football team he played for, Seoli Liverpool. He said in October 2021 while he was working as a machine operator in one of the factories at MASOWE, he met the accused who told him of how he admired his talent.

Rasheed told Majara he knew of some friend who could help him play in Dubai, where he would be paid M25 000 after the trials. Majara said Rasheed told him if he was interested he should give him his passport. “My brother then agreed that I give the opportunity a shot, and I told Rasheed and he contacted someone who I believed was the Dubai contact. He then asked for my passport so that he could process my visa,” Majara stated.

Majara said on October 21, 2021, Rasheed told him he was supposed to leave for Dubai, so he resigned with immediate effect from his employment. On the same day he received M650 for transportation and a Covid test. He said when he finally got to Dubai he was taken to a hotel where he found four men who told him that the boss would see them the following week. Majara said he finally met Aluu, who he learned later was the boss.

“Aluu said to me he hoped I knew what I was doing in Dubai and I told him I am there for football trials but he told me that I am there to open bank accounts for him,” Majara said. Majara was asked if he was told how much he will earn and he told Aluu that Rasheed told him he would earn M25 000 after the trials, to which Aluu said he would only receive 12 000 AED if he could open five to seven bank accounts for him. He said out of frustration he agreed to do what was asked of him so that he could go back home.

Majara continued to tell the court that he managed to open the bank accounts with Emirates, Dubai Islamic Bank and Dubai Commercial Bank, among others. After opening all the seven accounts he told Aluu and requested his money and freedom, but Aluu refused. Aluu then wanted Majara to rent a flat for him, introducing him to one female who he had to marry to facilitate the transaction and he was given a marriage certificate to sign.

Majara added that it was while in the process of renting the flat that he received a call from a man who told him he was aware of his dealings. He confessed all to the stranger. The transaction fell through and it was only then that he was allowed to leave, he asked Aluu for the promised salary but was told he will only be getting 3 000 AED which is equivalent to M12 000. Majara arrived back in Lesotho on February 24, and has not received the M25 000 he was promised by Rasheed.

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