Agent says  40 000 farmers in trouble

Agent says 40 000 farmers in trouble

MASERU – BKB, an agent selling local wool and mohair abroad, says Basotho farmers are the ones suffering after police froze the company’s bank account.  The police froze BKB’s Standard Lesotho Bank account through a court order. They said they are investigating allegations of money-laundering and tax evasion.

BKB boss, Isak Staats, told a press conference yesterday that about 40 000 Basotho farmers he is paying through the account are the ones bearing the brunt of the police’s action. “This account belongs to Basotho farmers because they get their payment through it,” Staats said.
The exact details of the allegations under investigation are not yet clear but the police have written letters to the bank and the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LWMGA), requesting information.

The letter to the bank asked about procedures followed and documents submitted when the account was opened in 1996.
From the LWMGA the police wanted details of the association’s agreement with BKB.
They also wanted a record of the July 2017 meeting the association had with BKB and a local audit firm. Staats said they are surprised by both the allegations and the decision to freeze the account because they have complied with all regulations.

On tax evasion allegations Staats said BKB pays taxes in South Africa because that is where it is registered. He vehemently denied allegations that the account could have been used for money-laundering.

“We followed all the legal procedures when we opened an account in Lesotho. We are a public company and we do not hide anything,” he said.
He however said BKB’s relationship with local farmers remains strong despite the recent troubles. Staats could not say how much money was in the account.

“I cannot tell how much money is there in the account because the money keeps on coming into the account to pay farmers,” he said.
He said BKB has already instructed its lawyers to challenge the decision to freeze the account. The application is expected to be filed in the High Court today.

Staats said BKB has been operating in the country for almost 44 years “without any form of impediment”. The decision to freeze the account has come at a time when farmers have to pay school fees.

“We are successfully doing the same business in other southern Africa countries without any impediment,” he said.
“We follow legal requirements and proper procedures when we operate in a country.”

Majara Molupe

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