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Court orders DCEO to stop harassing businessman

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 Moorosi Tsiane

THE High Court has ordered Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) officials to stop threatening a local businessman over the M9,7 million that his company is owed by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA).

Judge Maliepollo Makhetha has also instructed the anti-corruption body to allow Mr Motlatsi Tsiane’s lawyer to be present whenever they question him in relation to his business deals with the DMA.

Mr Tsiane had approached the High Court to complain that DCEO officers were harassing him over the M9, 699, 500 his company is owed by the Authority and he now feared for his life.

In his founding affidavit, the businessman says his company, Green Leaves Medical Supplies, was on 8 April 2021 awarded a M22 million tender to supply DMA with 100 000 Covid-19 tests kits.

Mr Tsiane says the DMA paid him a portion of the M22 million without any problems and were left with a balance of M9, 699 500.

He submits that he has been frequenting the DMA for the balance until he was told that it would be duly processed and paid by mid-February 2023.

However, he says his woes started when the DCEO Director (Investigations), Sefako Seema, wrote to the DMA requesting them to stop paying him.

“To my great shock and surprise, on 7 February 2023 I received a call from DCEO demanding that I report to their offices. I duly complied. I went there in the company of my lawyer,” Mr Tsiane says.

He further submits that upon arrival, the DCEO officers directed that his lawyer should remain outside while they interrogated him.

Despite insisting that his lawyer be present, the officers refused, he says.

“I was questioned by four DCEO officials as to how I got the tender to supply Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Tests and who had told me about the tender.”

Mr Tsiane says the officers also wanted to know who owned Green Leaves. He explained and provided all the documentation and the name of the official at Cabinet Office (one Mrs Selai) who had called in several service providers and informed them about the tender, he says.

He also told the officers that he was the sole trader behind Green Leaves.

Mr Tsiane avers that for two consecutive days he was called in for interrogation by the officers who wanted to know the details surrounding the tender, including procurement procedures and the shareholding in Green Leaves.

He says they could not take his answers and told him there was a certain lady who stays at Mpilo Estate in Maseru who is a director and shareholder of the company and he needed to disclose her particulars.

“When I told them that I had already responded to them, they harassed and intimidated me. They also threatened to handcuff and assault me if I did not tell them the truth. They were utterly aggressive.”

Mr Tsiane says because of the intimidation he was subjected to by the officers, he was now scared and feared for his life.

“It turns out that the ‘Mpilo lady’ they are referring to is one of my financiers for the project (Ms Lineo Nare). The other one is Mr Kabelo Tiheli. But the officers would not have any of that and kept interrogating me.”

Mr Tsiane says the investigative methods used by the DCEO officers were unlawful and violated his rights to legal representation.

He argues there was no need for the DCEO to be involved in the matter in the first place.

“This investigation is simply a mala fide (dishonest) ploy to prevent Government/DMA from paying for the services which I duly and legally provided.”

Mr Tsiane says the DCEO’s last stroke was when they instructed him to report to their offices again on 13 February 2023. They told him that they would scale up their interrogation and he should tell the truth if he valued his life.

After further interrogation, the officers told him to ready himself as they would need him again anytime soon, he submits.

He says on 22 February 2023 he received another call directing him to report at the DCEO offices again on 28 February 2023 at 10am for further interrogation.

“They said I must recall what I was told previously. Fearing for my life, I approached my present lawyers.”

Mr Tsiane then asked the court to intervene and order that Mr Seema and other DCEO officers  be restrained from further harassing and threatening him.

He also prayed that the two parties be directed to allow his lawyer to be present during any questioning sessions.

Justice Makhetha granted Mr Tsiane the two prayers on an interim basis.

“The defendants are hereby ordered to stop threatening the applicant during the course of their purported interrogation,” she said.

They should also allow him access to legal representation of his choice during any interogation, the judge said.