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Lesotho Stone fights back

Mohloai Mpesi

Lesotho Stone Enterprise (Pty) Ltd whose assets were frozen by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) has moved to block DCEO from assuming the company’s operations.

The company filed an application with the High Court and an Interim Court Order was issued last Friday by Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo barring the DCEO from assuming temporary ownership.

The application was filed by Lesotho Stone Enterprise (PTY) LTD and one Director of the company, Qinjil Zhang with DCEO, Standard Lesotho Bank and First National Bank as first to third respondents. 

The interim order delivered that a Rule Nisi be issued and returnable on October 19, 2020.

It dispensed that the execution of a preservation of property order granted on October 2, 2020 be stayed pending the finalisation of the rescission application and that the Respondents file the opposing papers within 48 hours thereof, that the applicants file the replying affidavit within 48 hours of receipt of the opposing papers and set down the matter for hearing within 48 hours after the closing of pleadings.

The order was issued following the DCEO’s seizure announcement of the property last week Wednesday.

With the execution of a preservation of property order granted on October 2, 2020 stayed by the Court pending the finalisation of the rescission application, the DCEO Director General Mahlomola Manyokole noted his office was working towards filing their own papers.

He confirmed to this publication that Lesotho Stone had also applied to have ownership of their bank accounts, but the Court denied their plea.

The corruption watch body froze the First National Bank and Standard Lesotho bank accounts and some of the immovable property based at Lekokoaneng, Matala and Happy Ville while still investigating the legitimacy of the mining license issuance and bribery awarded to the government officials pertaining facilitation of mining license issuance and criminal acts of money laundering which is suspected to have taken place within the operations, or facilitated by the existence of the company.

The DCEO last week revealed that Lesotho Stone was unable to present an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate when it applied for a renewal license in 2017 and that influenced the anti-corruption body’s decision to launch investigations into the company.

According to DCEO, the company has also ripped off the government M40million worth of tax revenues and has further failed to pay royalties to Lesotho.

“We received a court order instructing us to stop operations of the Company following an order we had initially received by the court to appoint a curator to handle the operations of the business while investigations were still continuing.

“With that said, we have to stop all on-going operations to honour the court’s decision. We are filing our papers with the intention to fight like I mentioned last week,” Manyokole said noting that despite the order, the company’s ownership is still in the hands of the DCEO through the appointment of a curator, although now the operations have halted.

“The company is still under our control until this matter is finalised in the courts of law, which I think will be this week. Their assets and bank accounts on the other hand are still frozen and this new court battle does not in any way affect our investigations at all.

“It would be a big blow if they were granted access to their bank accounts because they might withdraw all the monies in those accounts and that would set us back,” he said.

He further noted that the South African Reserve Bank’s decision will not be interrupted by the order because they broke the South African financial laws and they will continue keeping their accounts iced.

“Lesotho Stone attempted to appeal to the court for restoration of their accounts and assets but the court denied their plea,” he stressed

DCEO last week announced their plan to work with the South African government and China to assist in freezing bank accounts and assets owned by the company in those countries.  

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