Victory for mohair agent

Victory for mohair agent

MASERU – THE High Court yesterday overturned a Maseru magistrates’ court order to freeze BKB Limited’s account held with Standard Lesotho Bank. The account was frozen two weeks ago through a court order obtained by the police who said they were investigating a crime that had been committed by the company’s officials.

BKB is using the account to pay 37 000 farmers from whom it collects wool and mohair for sale at international auctions in South Africa.
On Monday, High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete ruled that Maseru magistrate Hlabanyane’s order was null and void.
The judge’s decision came after he heard arguments from BKB’s lawyer, Advocate Kaizer Selimo, as well as an affidavit from the company manager Isak Staats.

In his affidavit Staats said BKB enjoyed a warm relationship with the farmers and over the years the two sides had resolved in various meetings that his company should be the only one acting as an agent selling their wool and mohair.

He said in 2016 the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association passed another resolution confirming BKB as their only agent.
“Unfortunately and contrary to the resolution of the members, a joint venture was created between the applicant (BKB) and one Chinese company called Maseru Dawning Trading (Pty) Ltd and National Association called Wool Centre Joint Venture,” Staats said in the affidavit.

He said it was expected that the wool and mohair belonging to the association would be delivered to the joint venture.
The association referred to is the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association.
But because the farmers as individuals had not authorised or resolved that their wool and mohair should be taken to the joint venture the whole project flopped.

The district associations “were not ready to take their wool and mohair to the joint venture warehouse situated in Thaba-Bosiu”.
The Maseru Dawn Trading sued the association in an attempt to make it bring the farmers’ wool and mohair to the warehouse in Thaba-Bosiu.
Staats said during this time some government ministers were also holding meetings with the association’s leaders persuading them to take wool and mohair to the joint venture’s warehouse.

At the time BKB was processing payments to the farmers for their wool and mohair it had sold earlier.
It was at this time that to their shock they learnt that the farmers could not cash their cheques because the company’s account had been frozen.
They approached the bank and were told that the police had obtained a court order freezing the account saying they were investigating a crime.

“Worse still, even after the freezing of the account, if we were to assume the investigation was done in secret, we have to date of deposing to this affidavit not been called upon by (the police)…to tell us as the officers of (BKB) why the account has been frozen and the offences allegedly committed by the (BKB),” Staats said.

He said it is apparent that the police were interested in freezing the account and not investigating any crimes in light of an affidavit deposed to by Senior Inspector Makhariele.

He said Senior Inspector Makhariele’s affidavit shows that “he had set out only the facts that he believed are necessary to establish a probable cause to believe that BKB Limited, a South African based company has violated provisions of section 25 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act 2008 …by lodging huge amounts of money into account number 0140081106301 which was opened with RSA documents”.

He said Senior Inspector Makhariele did not indicate that he was entertaining the reasonable belief that an offence under the Act had been committed or was likely to be committed as one would expect.

Staats said Makhariele failed to specify “which specific act it is alleged (BKB) has committed or is suspected to have committed which then warranted (Makhaeriele’s) approach to seek the order”.

He argued that Senior Inspector Makhariele, as the investigating officer, should have asked for a bank statement to see where the money was coming from and where it was going instead of just assuming that it was likely to be used for financing terrorism acts.

He said the magistrate’s order violated BKB’s constitutional right to property.

Staff Reporter

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