By ‘Majirata Latela
The head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Sefako Seema says Lesotho needs to rethink its fight against crime due to shoddy investigations as a result of budget constraints.
During a press briefing held in Maseru this week, where DCEO and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) were handing over M18.6million to the minister of finance. This is the money recovered from the M50million that was fraudulently taken from government coffers last year.
The money is said to have been recovered through cooperation of all Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), LMPS and DCEO as well as the assistance of South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.
At the press briefing, Seema said the lack of resources to fight crime should not be overlooked by the government because technology is the new normal in the whole the world. He said nowadays money can be sent to SA in the blink of an eye therefore Lesotho should enhance its relationship with the South African authorities.
“Our relations should be practically displayed but budget constraints sometimes do not allow that. Cooperation among different departments and our South African counterparts is very vital and today is the evidence of cooperation that those departments showed,” he said.
He added that officers also need training courses to enhance their productivity as technology continues to evolve. He said there is need for Lesotho have well trained investigators.
“It is embarrassing for us when we get to other countries and learn that their Information Technology investigators also have forensic qualifications while in our country, we do not have such knowledge so much that we have to ask from them every time we need those services.
“The issue of resources is very important as we still have a lot of work to do in making sure that all the money that was stolen is recovered. Having to always go the long route to ask for money to go to SA to meet our counterparts takes much of our time and delays the work.
“Sometimes I even wish there could be a special fund put aside to help these sectors when there are cases of this kind,” Seema said.
Financial Intelligence Unit’s Jonothane Phakisi said crime has to be fought by “everyone wherever they are.” He observed it is important for people to give out tip-offs on crimes when they see it happening or know someone who is committing a crime because “all the perpetrators are our neighbours, friends and sometimes family members.”
He warned strongly: “Cooperation and working together as sectors that were involved in the case has been important.”
He also underlined the issue that sectors fighting crime in this country should have enough human capacity and sufficient training courses., adding that working together could enhance efforts to hit crime head-on and resolve Many cases.
“FIU gets many cases that banks report to them but due to inadequate resources and few officers we are unable to bring all the sectors together like we did on this case to make sure we curb crime,” he said.
Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli also emphasised the issue of cooperation as he mentioned that collaboration should not only be seen when fighting for the M50 million but in all crimes.
He said killings in the country are escalating and there is need for all sectors to work together to end the killings. He said investors do not want to come into a country where they will be fearing for their lives due to the high rate of crimes, noting that the country should fight crime to attract foreign investors.
He referred to the formation of the Covid-19 pandemic where National Covid19 Secretariat which was aimed at fighting the scourge of Covid-19, saying there is need for extended operation centre where all resources can be channelled to combat crime.
Senior Superintendent Piti Khutlang showed that in September 2021 when the ministry of finance was doing a reconciliation it discovered that M50million was missing. The money had been paid into unregistered Lesotho and South African business accounts.
During investigations Khutlang said a fraud, theft and money laundering of about M54million case was opened and 12 suspects have already appeared before the court.
He said with the money movable and immovable properties were found to have been bought with the money. In Lesotho about M12million was found in banks and in cash while about M23million was found in SA banks.
He added that when it comes to properties in Lesotho, 11 (costing about M1million) vehicles were found to have been bought with that money and in SA there are still some cars which were found but their value has not been established yet.
Also, in SA immovable properties such as buildings and land worth about M2million were found. In Lesotho recovered immovable property is estimated at M2million.
“The total estimated value of the money retrieved is about M40million,”Khutlang concluded.