Tycoon walks free

Tycoon walks free

MASERU – BUSINESS tycoon Ashraf Abubaker could be sleeping easy this week after the prosecution withdrew the theft and fraud charges that have been hanging over his head for the past 11 years. This was after another tycoon, Nasir Iqbal, with whom Abubaker was charged, signed a plea bargain with the prosecution.

Also walking free are Abubaker’s co-accused, lawyer Stefan Buys and deputy sheriff Tsebo Monyako.
Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi approved the withdrawal of the charges on Monday last week. Iqbal and his Lesotho Oil Mills & Soap (Pty) Ltd pleaded guilty to the charges.

As part of the agreement Iqbal and his company will pay M3 million to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).
Abubaker, Buys and Monyako were facing seven counts of theft, fraud and defeating the ends of justice. Their attempt to block their prosecution on grounds that their right to a fair trial had been infringed crumbled in the Court of Appeal.
This had allowed the prosecution to go after them.

Their charges followed a joint raid on Abubaker’s premises by the LRA, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the police in March 2005.
Investigators found garments worth M9 million hidden in an underground storage facility. The garments had allegedly been manufactured by Tony Textiles and TW Garments Manufacturing (Lesotho) (Pty) Ltd from material imported into the country duty-free.
The material was imported under Rebate Item 470.03 of the Customs and Exercise Act of 1982.

Under the law raw material imported into Lesotho for manufacture and export to countries outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is not subject to import duty and the manufactured textiles are not liable for export duty when exported.

However, if they are utilised or sold within SACU region they are no longer immune to duty liability. The investigators had found that Tony Textiles and TW Garments Manufacturing were licenced to import the materials but were under liquidation at the time of the raid. Buys was the liquidator of both companies.

Abubaker was also charged with making false statements to the investigators and refusal or failure to comply to requests by the investigators.
Buys allegedly made a false declaration concerning the garments. Counts four to six relate to the alleged removal, diversion of and dealing with the garments in question, while the seventh count is theft of the garments.

Iqbal and his company pleaded guilty to the charges. Lesotho Oil Mills & Soap faced charges of theft and fraud. Iqbal faced charges of making false statements, theft and fraud.

They also agreed that Iqbal’s company would be sentenced to pay a fine of M7 800.
The company would also pay M3 million to the LRA “being Customs duties payable on the goods in issue which amount will be payable in equal installments of 36 months”.

According to the court papers, the company would start paying from next month the installment of M84 000 monthly until April 2021.
The settlement agreement also says “all the garments subject to Customs duties be disposed of in a manner to be determined by” the LRA.
It also says any amount realised from there will be set off against the M3 million “in which event the period of repayment will be significantly shortened by the respective time and payments received” by the LRA.

Staff Reporter

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