Lesotho’s High Commissioner to Canada Ralechate ‘Mokose has refuted suggestions that he is using his position to mislead potential investors by giving them false and inadequate information on cannabis companies in Lesotho.
‘Mokose is suspected of favouring certain companies, after it emerged he had inexplicably picked a batch of 10 companies, which he told a potential investor in Canada were legally licensed to farm medical cannabis in Lesotho.
theReporter is in possession of a copy of the letter Mr ‘Mokose has written to Karah Kapoor, the president of Canadian firm KapoorAg Consulting, which had expressed interest in investing in Lesotho’s booming medical cannabis industry.
In an interview with this publication from Ottawa, Canada yesterday, ‘Mokose confirmed the letter was authentic and that he had indeed written it.
Upon checking out the status of the companies in the ministry of trade’s register, it emerged that eight of the companies were listed while two were not.
A source who is in cannabis production was quick to pour scorn on ‘Mokose’s selection of the 10 companies, describing the entire cannabis licensing as a ‘sham riddled with irregularities and questionable and illegal practices as some of the license holders are not by law permitted to hold them.
The source upped the ante as he accused ‘Mokose him of using his position inappropriately to his advantage as all the companies he has listed in his letter are not operational on the ground.
“We have so many companies that are seeking investment and the ambassador only lists 10 companies which have not even started operating. This shows that he has vested interests in those companies,” the source said.
In response, ‘Mokose professed his innocence and insisted he was not engaging in any foul play or underhand dealings.
He maintained that he is mandated to promote foreign direct investment by attracting investors to come to the country to invest.
“I was invited, on my arrival here, to a Canada Chamber of Business event which is meant for African countries to network with potential investors to show them investment opportunities in their countries. After that I noticed an influx of investors from different countries who were keen to invest in Lesotho after we legalised the cultivation of medicinal cannabis.
“I met this gentleman Karaar Kapoor at the event. That’s the gentleman to whom the letter is addressed. I think it has been misinterpreted because what happened is that the president of Africa Chamber of Business had set an appointment for me to meet this gentleman. We failed to meet due to time constraints at the event,” he said.
‘Mokose said Kapoor called a follow up meeting at which he told him he had two people who had called from Lesotho seeking investors, and wanted him as the High Commissioner to confirm the legitimacy of the two companies.
“I then called the ministry of health which showed that the legitimacy of the license could be seen by a letter attached to the license that is signed from the ministry of health,” he said.
He added that upon confirmation that those licenses were authentic, Kapoor requested 20 more companies holding cannabis licences.
“It is not only one company that wants to invest, there are many of them and while we were looking for the companies, we had to scrutinize them to establish their legitimacy and reliability. There is also a requirement that the licences should be renewed on a yearly basis and I found out that many licensees did not renew their licenses, hence the need for the scrutiny.
“We are not favouring anyone; we just need authenticity from the ministry of health to confirm that the companies’ licenses are in good standing. This list of the companies is from my sources – some people who called me personally to help them look for investment. I got confirmation of the authenticity of these licences from the ministry of health,” he said.
In a bid to establish if ‘Mokose’s actions could be regarded as unbecoming of a diplomat, theReporter got hold of the minister of foreign affairs, Lesego Makgothi, who gave a brief outline of the functions and responsibilities of Lesotho ambassadors abroad.
He said an ambassador’s duties include upholding the integrity of the country and securing the interests of the country while at the same time attracting foreign investment to Lesotho.
“As far as this issue of cannabis licences is concerned, Ntate ‘Mokose is not wrong for seeking investors for those companies. What he has fallen short of is to show that those 10 licenses are operational.
“I think we have now issued more than 150 licenses, but most of them are not operational. Those that are mentioned in the letter have already started operating and I think by the end of December and January they will start exporting,” he indicated.
Makgothi, however, was dumbfounded when we put it to him that minister of health had not corroborated the authenticity of the licences. “Now it becomes a challenge because I got the information on the authenticity of the licenses from the High Commissioner himself, who has attached (in our correspondence) the letters from the ministry of health.”
Health minister Nkaku Kabi has previously disclosed that the ministry had issued 144 licenses and that only eight of the companies were fully operational. However, he could not confirm if any of the 10 companies in ‘Mokose’s letter were among the eight. In fact, he denied cognizance of the companies.
The two companies that we could not find on the ministry of trade register are Pharmaceutic bio green and (PTY) Ltd and Pharmalex Medi-Suppliers (PTY) Ltd.
‘Mokose sent us some of the letters he received from the ministry confirming the authenticity of the 10 companies, including Pharmaceutic Bio Green – the letter was written by Masello Sello (Narcotics Secretariat Member) on August 9 2019.
The letter vouching for Pharmalex Medi-Suppliers was written by Germina ‘Mamoeti Mphoso (head Pharmacy Policy and Regulation) on May 9 2019.
Both letters state that the companies’ licenses had been signed off by the minister of health.
Asked if he had signed off the letters, Kabi said he ‘may have signed them, or they are fraudulent’. He could also not confirm if licenses were being issued without his knowledge, or whether his signature may have been forged. But he did boldly say some licenses have been photocopied, in colour.
According to a cop that we approached to explain how this works, the modus operandi may involve photocopying a signed license, appending a company name and license number in the photocopy and passing it off as legit.
In an attempt to get clarity on the matter, this publication approached Mphoso. However, she told our reporter she needed approval of the chief accounting officer (principal secretary) to talk to the media. She accordingly advised our reporter to seek the approval from the PS. The ministry of health PS, Thebe Mokoatle, promised to communicate with Mphoso to give her the approval, and then get back to us. Several hours later when he could no longer be found as his phone rang unanswered.
Meanwhile, another minister close to the proceedings maintained that ‘Mokose did indeed have interests in the listed companies. He alleged that one of the companies, which he could not name, belonged to ‘Mokose’s son.
“These people are circumventing the system. They issue fraudulent licenses and then pocket the money. These so-called license holders do not even deposit the required license fee into the designated Post Bank account.”