Lesotho Appeal Court reduces Acres’ fine, still guilty of one count of bribery

South African Press Association (SAPA)
August 15, 2003

MASERU: The Court of Appeal of Lesotho on Friday reduced to R15-million the fine of R22-million imposed by the High Court for bribery on a large Canadian construction and engineering company, Acres International, relating to the giant Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

The full court of three appeal judges – the Court President, Justice Jan Steyn, Justice Michael Ramodibedi and Justice Chris Plewman – dismissed the appeal by Acres on one of two counts.

The Appeal Court confirmed the conviction of Acres by the High Court in that, over the period between 1991 to 1998, the company paid about 500,000 Canadian dollars into a Swiss bank account held by a Lesotho engineer, Zalisiwonga Bam, who acted as an intermediary. He transferred part of the amount to the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, Masupha Sole.

The court however upheld the appeal by Acres against conviction on the second count of bribery involving 180,000 Canadian dollars, allegedly paid by Acres into a Swiss bank account held by Bam’s wife, Margaret.

Justice Steyn said the prosecution had failed to prove that Acres paid the amount into Mrs Bam’s Swiss bank account with the intention to bribe Sole.

According to the investigations of a forensic expert, the moneys paid into Mrs Bam’s account were never, either in whole or in part, paid to Sole.

It had been agreed during the trial proceedings that the money in due course was transferred to another Swiss account held by Bam, where it remained for seven years until in 1998 it was transferred to an account in London and “at that point the money trail disappeared”.

In view of the fact that the Appeal Court upheld Acres appeal against conviction on the second count of bribery, the court reduced the High Court fine of R22-Million to R15-Million.

Categories: Africa, Lesotho, Odious Debts

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