Suspended Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole has shaken up the closet of skeletons in the life of judge of the High Court Justice Teboho Moiloa.
This Manyokole did as he substantiated his call for Justice Molioa to recuse himself as Chairman of the Tribunal set-up to test his fitness to hold office, where he indicated that the judge was likely to be conflicted in dealing with his case as he (Manyokole) had in the past, been the one chasing Justice Moiloa for corruption.
The matter unveiled on Wednesday at the Manthabiseng Convention Center where the snail-pacing tribunal is sitting. Manyokole filed a notice of application which sought Moiloaâ€™s recusal citing that the latter was implicated in money laundering scheme and corruption among others.
The matter was heard by Justice Polo Banyane, retired Justice Semapo Peete and chaired by Moiloa. Manyokole said Moiloa is conflicting himself by chairing the tribunal mandated to test his fitness while he (Moiloa) was investigated by Manyokole during his time in office at the anti-corruption unit.
Besides the recusal of Justice Teboho Moiloa, Manyokole further sought a directive to the complainant to provide the requested information which they failed to furnish him as per his request. Postponing the proceedings to such a time as would allow the dispatch of the sought information and would allow Manyokole sufficient time to prepare for his participation in the proceedings and his fair trial rights protected.
â€œConfirmation and guarantee by the tribunal that certain employees of DCEO who had withdrawn from being witness from Mr. Manyokole shall be summoned by the tribunal to give evidence before the tribunal,â€ the application said.
â€œI aver that Justice the Chairperson of the Tribunal, Justice Teboho Moiloa is in Law required to recuse himself from participating in the proceedings for the following reasons;
â€œBefore my appointment as DG of the DCEO investigated the rental scheme involving Justice Moiloaâ€™s house which was rented to the former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara without following public procurement regulations. At the time, former Chief Justice Majara was entitled to plus or minus M4, 000 per month as housing allowance, but the court rented and pad around M27, 000 monthly as rentals out of the judiciary funds for occupation of Justice Moiloaâ€™s house, a scheme which benefited Justice Moiloaâ€™s estate and causing DCEO to investigate the alleged scheme,â€ he explained.
He explained that he was appointed the Director General of the DCEO in July 2019, and pursued the mandate of the DCEO to fight corruption and economic offences. Corruption and economic offences staged by politicians, government bureaucrats and private persons admittedly rampant in Lesotho, hence the establishment of the DCEO.
He said the rigorous pursuit of the mandate aforesaid puts him in the firing line of those who were infuriated by him and DCEOâ€™s efforts to fight corruption and economic offences as attempts were made in the last year to have him sacked and removed from the helm and administration of the DCEO.
The tribunal was established to enquire Manyokoleâ€™s fitness to hold office as DG of DCEO pursued by the former Minister of Law and Justice Nqosa Mahao which he challenged in the High Court last year in December where he lost the case before Justice Moroke Mokhesi in March this year. He also lost the appeal of the same case in May this year.
He said the former DG even announced publicly in local papers that DCEO was investigating the matter. Although it was later alleged that the former DG had announced that there was no corruption.
â€œOn my appointment I sought to reopen the matter after receiving pressure from the public, because clearly the purported announced was at variance with incontrovertible facts.
â€œMy decision to re-open the case, reached Justice Moiloa and some politicians, and becoming the real reason and cause for my removal from the post of the DG.
â€œJustice Moiloa, as judge of High Court continued to hold and perform the function (contrary to the prescripts of section 14 of the High Court Act 1978) of the remunerated position of the Chairperson of the Board of Standard Lesotho Bank. As the Chairperson of the Board aforesaid, and under his chairmanship, the former Chief Executive of Standard Lesotho Bank and the member of the board, Mr Mpho Vumbukani, was in 2012, allowed and authorized to buy the House Plot No.12281-495 belonging to the bank, and later rented it back to the same bank.
â€œFrom the records of DCEO and information from informants, the DCEO had established that there might have been some collusion with Board members and Mr Vumbukani. The DCEO investigated the matter. Moiloa as the Chairperson of the Board who signed the resolution of the board like other members who so signed was implicated in the scheme. On my appointment as the DG of the DCEO in 2019, I pursued the matter which was lately stagnant for reasons which I came to know as the relationship between Justice Moiloa, his wife and some officers in the DCEO.
â€œThat on my appointment as DG, I re-ignited the investigations and sought to have the matter brought to finality by bringing those implicated in the scheme to book, irked and caused ire on the part of the board members, including Justice Moiloa, and some politicians who advised that I should be removed from the post of the DG of the DCEO.
â€œThere was an alleged money laundering scheme concerning Webber Newdigate in which millions of taxpayersâ€™ money were paid from the Ministry of Finance into Webber Newdigate bank account in South African Bank, and later transferred into the bank account held by Webber Newdigate in Lesotho disguised as legal fees.
â€œWebber Newdigate in Lesotho is a firm of lawyers, which Justice Moiloa founded when he left employment of government and it is alleged that at the time of these transactions he was a partner and a member of Webber Newdigate. DCEO under my direction and supervision investigated the matter, in particular the government officials and partners of Webber Newdigate (including Justice Moiloa),â€ he said.
The matter of recusal was opposed by Attorney Generalâ€™s representatives, Monaheng Rasekoai and Christopher Lephuthing who filed opposing affidavits of the Acting Director General of DCEO, Sefako Seema who vehemently disputed the allegations raised by Manyokole on three counts; alleged sub-leasing of house to Majara, the Lesotho Standard bank and Webber Newdigates.
â€œApplicant contends that the chairperson is biased because he is or was a subject of investigation by himself and or DCEO. There are spurious allegations that there is a pending investigating case against chairperson of the tribunal and various other persons linked to the chairperson. I will deal with the proposed notion of bias and facts relevant thereto.
â€œOn the matter of sub-leasing of house to Chief Justice Majara, I confirm that there was a formal reporting of the matter for investigation by a proper authority, Office of Attorney General then led by Advocate T. Makhetha KC on or about 2016/2017 following the report of the Auditor General.
â€œInvestigation of Webber Newdigate law firm, I confirm that the applicant upon arrival and or assumption of duty as Director General approached me and informed me that he was desirous of investigating alleged money laundering activities of Webber Newdigate.
â€œHe expressly advised me that he would not prefer my involvement in the enquiry and investigations of the matter due to my collegial relationship with one of the partners being Mrs. â€˜Mateboho Tohlang-Phafane,â€ Seema said in the affidavit.
â€œThe challenge that beset the enquiry was that there was no formal reporting of the alleged act of money laundering and that being the case, there was no complaint and that rendered him as a complainant. To my knowledge, this case did not follow the prescribed procedure and or conventions of DCEO. The situation obtains to date. To my knowledge, such case was never registered formally and hence not an institutionally sanctioned initiative of the DCEO.
â€œAn enquiry was set-up in line with our conventional procedure and process at the DCEO, in order to establish if there is a prima facie case of corruption that could warrant investigations. It was concluded through this enquiry mechanism that there was no prima facie case to be staged against either one or both contracting parties (judges).
â€œTo the best of my knowledge the matter was put bed and this occurred long before the applicant could be engaged as head of DCEO. What is important is that even after his arrival, the matter remained as water under the bridge. It is being raised now opportunistically to taint the image and integrity of the chairperson for self-serving ends.
â€œI confirm that there was a formal reporting of the case for investigation with the DCEO. The outcome of investigation pending largely on the evidence which was expected to come from board of Standard Lesotho Bank, while the matter was under investigation, the applicant personally informed me that he had met with Mpho Vumbukani at Durban in Republic of South Africa and was convinced that the allegations were and are nothing but a red herring. He therefore accordingly directed the closure of the matter.
â€œI am saying this because, such investigations if any, are conducted by the institution of DCEO not a suspended individual or agent of the DCEO. It is therefore patently disingenuous for the applicant to personally attribute to himself institutional imperatives as if though he is the institution himself even in circumstances where he is under suspension as in the instance.
â€œI therefore conclude that a case for recusal of the chairperson has not been made in view of what I have set out above. The application for recusal ought to be dismissed as a result,â€ he said.