DCEO boss promises  ‘big fish’

DCEO boss promises ‘big fish’

…faces down allegations of playing both sides of the table….

MASERU  – THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) boss, Attorney Mahlomola Manyokole, says there is nothing sinister or malicious with his demand that investigators seek his approval before taking “enforcement action” against high profile cases.
He told thepost in an interview that his motive was not to sabotage or interfere with the cases but to “understand them and ensure they are thoroughly investigated”.
“The allegations that I am interfering or trying to block cases are unfounded and the motives of those making it are obvious,” Manyokole says of the response to accusation that he could be trying to stall cases of people reportedly connected to him.

“The person (making the allegations) is trying to get political sympathy.”
He says his definition of ‘high profile’ cases should not be narrowly restricted to politically exposed suspects.
“It includes prominent businesses people, huge amounts of money and people who hold high offices that are not related to politics or the government,” Manyokole says.
He says soon after appointment he received several complaints from Basotho who said the DCEO was sleeping on the job.
Some of those allegations, he says, are that the DCEO investigators are corrupt, sitting on cases and using investigations to blackmail suspects.
Others mocked the DCEO as nothing more than a toothless dog chasing small thieves while big crooks roamed free.

That, Manyokole says, was an indication of the challenge he faces as director general.
“I heard these allegations even before I came into office. I know that frustration.”
“So when I came into office I wanted to understand every case and assess its progress.”
The idea, he adds, is to prioritise cases so that the DCEO doesn’t spend millions on cases the police can competently handle. “We cannot be duplicating roles by chasing small thieves when the police are there. Our role is to deal with serious economic offences, not some M200 matters.”
He says those accusing him of interfering with cases are the same people who have been sitting on cases for years adding that from the first days he sensed that there will be some resistance from some investigators and prosecutors. He first instructed all staff to submit reports on problems they face in executing their duties. Later he asked the investigators to give him an inventory of their cases.

Most the reports never came and those that came were not detailed enough, he explains.
“That is why I asked for the inventory of exhibits, the files and the dockets for all the cases. I am the chief accounting officer and I report to the parliament and the people of this country. I have to know which case we are investigating, how far we have gone with it and when we are bringing it for trial”.
Manyokole wants the DCEO to go after what he calls “high return cases”, by which he means cases whose magnitude justify both the time and money expended in investigating. He is talking about cases most likely to end with the government recovering the stolen funds or property.

He admits that for that to happen he has to demand accountability from the investigators while also pushing them to deliver cases within stipulated deadlines.
“I want people to account for their actions and work. There are some cases that have been investigated for years but none have ever been brought to court.”
“For years we have been threatening to arrest some prominent people but we never do it. I am saying that should end.”
Manyokole says from now on he will be “frying big fish” instead of focusing on what he calls Mickey Mouse cases.
He wants the DCEO to spend its resources and time wisely. His main worry is that by clutching on routine cases that should be handled by the police the DCEO has neglected its mandate of dealing with serious economic crimes.
So money that should have been used to go after suspects from which millions can be recovered instead of going after small-time crooks accused of talking small bribes. And this is not because routine and small corruption cases are not important.

“It just means that the police have the means to deal with those cases while we focus on special cases.”
He says as he reviews some of the dockets and files he is shocked by how long some of the investigators have been on the cases.
“There is no strategy on dealing with cases. Some are handling too many cases at the same time.”
Of all the complaints none has bothered him more that the allegations that DCEO investigators are using cases to blackmail suspects. It is rumoured that investigators are bribed to either stall or kill cases.
Our correspondent has heard several people claim that it costs between M30 000 and M50 000 to induce investigators to abandon serious cases.

For small cases, so goes the speculation, as little as M2000 will make an investigator ‘lose interest in the case’ or find some technicality to allow it to rot on the DCEO shelves.
Manyokole says the result is that some investigators go after cases from which they can get the maximum personal benefit.
Cases of national importance are thus neglected while investigators line their pockets with bribes.
“This is because there is no accountability.
“The investigations are not time bound and we really don’t have an idea if we are spending our resources on cases that matter to our country or are useful to the investigators that blackmail suspects.”

Manyokole says he cannot understand why some insiders find his request for dockets and files curious because the buck stops with him as the director general. ‘‘Those cases are being investigated and prosecuted on behalf of my office as the director general’, he says.
“The law is clear that it is the director general who defines what a serious economic offence is. It is clear as to who he accounts to. It’s not by mistake that the director general is a lawyer by profession.”
Manyokole is promising a sea of change in the way the DCEO handles cases.
He wants an organisation that is respected by the public and feared by crooks.
“I promise you that in the next few weeks you will see many prominent people getting arrested. You will see us catching big fish.”

But before doing that he wants to clean his own house first.
For the past few days he has been perusing the hundreds of case files with investigators and prosecutors.
“I am asking for progress and decisions. I want to know what’s happening with each case.”
He says he is not perturbed that he is branded a nosy boss.
“If there is any conflict of interest I will deal with it through the right channels. I will ask the police to deal with such cases. As a lawyer I know that even the perception of conflict of interest should not be entertained.”
“I have been a taxman and I know how things work. I have prosecuted and frozen accounts of some people who are very close to me. This is not new to me.”

  • Ed’s note: [Thibeli was suspended last night]

Staff Reporter

 

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