Africa

M12 million bribery scam on Sole

Khutliso Sekoati
Mopheme (Maseru)
August 9, 1999

Former Chief Executive official of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Masupha Sole is facing charges of bribery amounting to a stunning M12 million received from some international companies which were involved in the construction of the M10 billion Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

The 51- year-old Sole was charged last week but was not asked to plead. He has been granted a M200 000 bail by the Maseru Magistrate. According to the charge, Sole unlawfully, intentionally and corruptly accepted bribe moneys over a period of ten years dating from February 1988 to December 1998 from twelve of the international project contractors.

The companies allegedly involved include Impregilio of Italy, Dumez International of France, Acres International of Canada, Swedish-Swiss of ABB, Diwi Consulting, Highlands Water Venture which s is consortium that includes Germany’s Hochtief and South Africa’s Concor and Group Five. Sole, seconded to administer the management of the project at the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), and overseen by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, is facing 14 charges of fraud while he was the top official of the Authority.

The charge sheet indicates that the accused “did unlawfully and with intent to defraud, misrepresent to the LHDA that he, in June-July 1991, would be attending the International Conference on Large Dams (the ICOLD Conference) in Vienna, Austria for its duration on behalf of the LHDA and that by reason thereof required the LHDA to pay all his travel costs associated therewith and di by means of the said misrepresentation induce the LHDA to its prejudice, actual or potential, to pay for the said costs in the amount of M17 110.50 and to authorise him to attend the said ICOLD conference.

“He well knew that he did not intend to attend the ICOLD conference for its entire duration, but that he would travel to, inter alia, Paris and Moscow, either on personal business or on holiday or on business unconnected to that of the ICOLD conference,” the charge sheet further indicates.

In another fraud charge, Sole, who enjoys smooth luxury life-style, is said to have unlawfully and with intent to defraud, misrepresent to the LHDA that he,in June/July 1991, had attended the ICOLD conference in Vienna Austria for its duration on behalf of the LHDA and that while he was at the conference, he incurred expenditure in excess of that for which provision had already been made by the LHDA, in the amount of M22 240.00 (being in respect of an accountable cash advance to cover his costs while attending the conference).

He represented that he had incurred additional expenditure in the amount of M18 874.42 and that by reason thereof required the LHDA to reimburse him although he knew that he had incurred those expenses while on a personal travel. The twelve groups from which Sole benefitted in bribery activities mentioned in the charge sheet are: Impregilio- US$250 000, Highlands Water Venture – US$733 404, Spie Batignoles – FF 738 630, Sogreah FF 84 000, LHPC Chantiers -RR 392 967, ED Zueblin -DM 819 862, LHPC- DM 105, 639, Diwi Consulting – DM 4 500, ABB- FF 250 000, Lahmeyer Consulting Engineers- DM 16 000, Acres International – CAD 279 539, Dumez International – FF509, 905.62.

In Lesotho’s Maloti currency the total of the amount is M12.012 million. Sole also faces a charge of perjury arising from High Court proceedings in a civil claim in which during his testimony under oath he “did unlawfully and intentionally depose and swear in substance and to the effect that he had no bank accounts in both the Republic of South Africa and overseas, namely he held bank accounts with the Standard Bank of South Africa at the Labybrand and Bloemfontein branches, as well as bank accounts in Switzerland with the Union Bancair Prive in Geneva, the Bangue Multi Commerciale in Geneva and the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich. The inquiry took two years to conduct with the assistance of French authorities and the Swiss to the governments of Lesotho and South Africa.

The case has been postponed to August 31.

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