Lesotho dam official guilty of graft

Agence France Press
May 22, 2002

The former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority was pushed into the Lesotho High Court in a hospital bed on Monday to hear a judge convict him on 13 counts of taking bribes from international firms.

Masupha Sole was rushed to Lesotho by air from Johannesburg on Sunday night for the judgment. He had been undergoing emergency surgery for spinal injuries sustained in a motor accident.

Sole was convicted on 13 counts of bribery related to more than one million dollars, linked to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which supplies water to South Africa.

Judge Brendon Cullinan found that as the chief executive and as an engineer, Sole knew the sources and purpose of the payments made to his accounts at banks in Lesotho, Zurich, and Ladybrand, South Africa, through intermediaries.

He was found guilty of accepting bribes from international consultants and contractors from the United States, Britain, Canada, France and Germany to induce him to grant them lucrative contracts in the giant project.

Canadian contractors Acres International and Germany’s Lahmeyer International are presently on trial for bribery in the Lesotho High Court.

Cullinan said he was satisfied, “beyond responsible doubt” that Sole had received payments from the international contractors and that he had agreed to “further their private interests.”

Sole, to be sentenced on Thursday, said that he would challenge the judgement.

“I intend to appeal all the decisions made by the high court if I survive, because I believe these people want to finish me off,” he said. Cullinan found Sole not guilty on five counts on which he was previously charged.

He was considering a bail application for Sole, who is being held under guard at a Maseru hospital.

Sole’s lawyer, Haae Phoofolo, said he would take up the treatment of his client with the Law Society of Lesotho.

“Sole should never have come to court on a stretcher,” he said.

Sole, a candidate for the Basotho National Party in the general elections to be held on Saturday, said the judgment had been rushed to rule him out of the election.

“I believe this case has been rushed through court so I am not able to stand as a candidate,” said Sole.

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