A local loan shark, Platinum Credit Ltd, and its managing director Motena Lishea want the high court to set aside as invalid a warrant of search and seizure issued to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).
According to the court papers, the warrant was issued by Magistrate Thabang Tapole. Following the issuance of the warrant, Standard Lesotho Bank and the Lesotho Postbank froze three bank accounts belonging to the loan shark.
â€œThe First Applicant owes its clients refunds upon which they depend for their livelihoods and payment is long overdue and some of the said clients have instituted legal proceedings against the First Applicant for payments of their refunds,â€ read the court papers filed yesterday.
â€œThe first applicant is indebted to the Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) and the deadline for filing and payment of the same is the 30th of June 2023 and the freezing of the first applicantâ€™s banking accounts will cause it to miss the deadline and thereby incur penalties as well as to not have a valid tax clearance certificate which will in turn also cause the Regulator (Central Bank of Lesotho) to revoke First Applicantâ€™s licence.
â€œIn essence, the First Respondent might lose its licence if the bank accounts are not urgently unfrozen,â€ they added.
The respondents in the matter are Lerato Pebane, DCEOâ€™s investigation officer, DCEO, Magistrate Tapole, Attorney General (AG), Standard Lesotho Bank, and Lesotho Postbank.
The loan shark also wants the high court to nullify any investigation and/or litigation that might ensue as a result of the â€œunlawful and invalid warrantâ€.
The chairman of the companyâ€™s board of directors, Mpho Monyane, stated in the founding affidavit that DCEO alleges that Lishea who is also the majority shareholder, for dissipating, has been stealing, laundering money and utilising that money for some other illegal and criminal purposes and her personal use.
Monyane however denies these allegations.
In her affidavit when seeking the warrant, Pebane stated that DCEO received a complaint of theft, fraud, and money laundering on January 26, 2023, committed by Lishea against Platinum Credit.
She said their preliminary investigations revealed that on July 6, 2022, the First National Bank (FNB) Lesotho flagged suspicious transactions amounting to M2, 805, 493.23 in the Platinum Credit bank account.
â€œThe bank provisionally froze the account and asked Motena to confirm the legitimacy of the transfers and provide Know Your Customers (KYC) documents in support of the transfers.
â€œMotena failed to do so and the bank terminated their banking relationships with Platinum Credit because the transfers violated the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act, 2008,â€ she said.
She further revealed that it was later discovered that the M2, 805, 493.23 was part of the M9 million that was intended to be transferred out of the bank account in payment of the â€œunlawful golden parachute to the board of directorsâ€.
A golden parachute is a large sum of money given to the top executives if their company is taken over by another company and the executives are fired as a result of the merger or takeover.
â€œFrom the period commencing from November 2022 to date, Motena has stolen money in excess of M1.6million belonging to Platinum Credit Ltd, Platcorp Holding (Pty) Ltd and all the creditors from the account held at Lesotho Postbank,â€ Pebane said.
â€œThe monies that Motena dissipated from Platinum Credit Ltdâ€™s Lesotho Postbank account were unlawfully acquired as Managing Director failed to give reasons for the transfers and withdrawals when questioned by the Internal Audit Officer, the same way she failed to give reasons for the transfers that were flagged for money laundering by FNB in July 2022.
â€œThe said transactions had no bearing on legitimate business transactions but rather her personal benefit. To date, the full extent of Motenaâ€™s theft is unknown,â€ she added.
Monyane pours cold water on these allegations in his affidavit.
â€œThe mere fact that it is alleged FNB entertained suspicious concerning the amount does not itself provide a fact from which an inference of money laundering may be inferredâ€, he said.
He told the court that the referenced M9 million was indeed money that the board had resolved to transfer to the members of the board.
He said: â€œThere was at the time of the resolution, a contemplated protracted litigation with Platcorp Holdings Ltd, which is the case as the First Applicant (Platinum Credit) and Platcorp Holdings Ltd have been locked in protracted litigation since July 2022 to date.
â€˜The reason being that the Board had anticipated that Platcorp Holdings would definitely make a move to have Platinum Credit Ltdâ€™s bank accounts frozen to hamper its efforts to be able to pay legal presentation.â€
He said the board then resolved to place the said money in the members of the boardâ€™s hands so that they would assist the company to pay for legal fees. He attached a copy of the minutes of the board to the application.
â€œThe minutes clearly show that the decision was a Board decision and not the accusedâ€™s decision as the First Respondent (Pebane), under oath, would have the Forth Respondent (Magistrate Tapole) to believe. The Forth Respondent clearly did not apply his mind to the facts, otherwise, he would have noticed that the referenced amount was dealt with pursuant to the decision of the Board, not Ms Lishea, as alleged.
â€œThe failure of the Fourth Respondent to apply his mind to the facts vitiates the entire reason the warrant was granted as the accused was not the decision-maker in the so-called Golden Parachute decision.â€
The matter will be argued next week on June 23.