Thinyane faces M13.6m theft charge

Thinyane faces M13.6m theft charge

MASERU – THE chairman of the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LNWMGA), Mokoenehi Thinyane, is facing theft charges involving M13.6 million.
Thinyane appeared in the Maseru magistrate’s court on Monday and was granted a M1 000-bail.
His lawyer, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, told thepost yesterday that the police summoned and briefly detained Thinyane on Monday before taking him to court.
The prosecution alleges that Thinyane diverted M13.6 million dipping levy collected from wool and mohair farmers. It is alleged that instead of submitting the money to the government Thinyane diverted it to the LNWMGA.

The charge sheet says between 2012 and 2017 Thinyane “did agree to divert and diverted the dipping fee that was supposed to be remitted to the Principal Secretary of (the Ministry of) Agriculture to the account of Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association”.
It says he unlawfully and intentionally stole, appropriated and converted “the property belonging to the Government of Lesotho”.
Although the charges were laid this week, the government started accusing the LNWMGA of diverting the dipping levy earlier this year.
The allegations came at the height of the fierce battle between the government and the association over the controversial Wool and Mohair regulations which stopped farmers from selling their fibre at South African auctions.

Thinyane vehemently denied the allegations at that time and said the government had agreed that the dipping levy should be transferred to the association directly from BKB, the South African broker that was selling Lesotho’s wool and mohair.

The arrangement, he claimed, came after the government repeatedly failed to supply dipping chemicals despite deducting it from their wool and mohair sales.
He said the new arrangement was that BKB would deduct the levy from the farmers after the sales and transfer it to the association which would then supply the dipping chemicals to the farmers.
That system however started collapsing after the government announced the regulations that prohibited farmers from selling their wool to South African auctions.
BKB could no longer act as a broker for the farmers and therefore had no way of collecting the levy.
The government was then forced to buy the chemicals.

As relations soured, the ministers accused the association and BKB of conniving to divert the dipping levy.
In an earlier interview Thinyane told thepost that the Ministry of Agriculture wrote to farmers asking them to submit financial records to ascertain that indeed the association had not collected levies from the farmers.

He said they explained to the ministry that they did not have the dipping levy.
Thinyane then said they did not collect the levy because it was deducted directly from their cheques by the broker, BKB.
Thinyane said farmers used to get medicines directly from BKB before the shearing season and the firm would deduct the money from the sales of wool and mohair.
On Monday Attorney Letsika argued that Thinyane deserved bail because he has been cooperating with the police and is not a flight risk.

Itumeleng Khoete

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