Former PS walks free

Former PS walks free

MASERU – FORMER Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, is now a free man after a four-year struggle to extricate himself from bribery charges. This after Justice Molefi Makara quashed the bribery and corruption charges he was facing over the awarding of a M300 million ID and passport contract to Nikuv International Projects.

Justice Makara said the prosecution had taken too long to proceed with the cases, thus denying Khetsi his right to a free and fair trial.
He was charged in November 2013.
Khetsi this week referred questions about the judgement to his lawyer, who also refused to comment.
For four years Khetsi waited for his day in court. It never came.

Meanwhile his life was on hold. At 48, he could not apply for any job because bribery and corruption cases were like an axe hanging over his head. He was unemployable.  That he had been charged for allegedly receiving a staggering M5 million in bribes was public information, both locally and internationally. After waiting for four years as the prosecution dithered Khetsi took the fight to them.  In several letters he dared the prosecution to proceed with the trial.

When that failed he approached the High Court earlier this year. He argued that the charges should be dropped because the prosecution was taking too long to bring the matter to trial. The delay, he said, was a violation of his right to a free and fair trial.

He said the case against him had not moved since he was charged four years ago for allegedly taking bribes from Nikuv International Projects.
In the indictment the prosecution had accused Khetsi of receiving a M5 million-kickback when the government awarded the M300 million-contract for the Israeli company to IDs and passports to Lesotho.

It said the bribe was given through a middleman called Motsotuoa, with whom Khetsi was jointly charged.
Nikuv International was spared of the charges after it signed an indemnity deal with the government and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The agreement was that the company, its employees and agents would not be prosecuted as long as they give truthful evidence in the prosecution of locals like Khetsi.

Although initial investigations had indicated that the sleaze included several senior government officials Khetsi was eventually the only civil servant charged, triggering concerns over what many saw as selective prosecution.
In his ruling two weeks ago Justice Makara said it was unfair for the prosecution to keep the charges hanging over Khetsi without bringing the matter to court.

The judge castigated the prosecution’s decision to charge Khetsi before completing its investigation. He took exception to the prosecution’s repeated request for postponements. In its affidavit the prosecution had said it could not proceed with the trial because it was conducting further investigations.

It said authorities in Mauritius, the island through which some of the bribery money was allegedly channeled, were uncooperative.
Justice Makara’s written judgment is expected today. It is not clear if the prosecution plans to appeal his ruling.
The judgement however brings a dramatic end to what was likely to be Lesotho’s biggest corruption case this decade.

Staff Reporter

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