Suspended boss denies role in  bank fraud

Suspended boss denies role in bank fraud

MASERU – SUSPENDED Lesotho Post Bank Finance Director, Themba Sopeng, has denied defrauding a customer of M6.9 million.
Sopeng was suspended in February after he allegedly facilitated a fraudulent transfer of the money from an account owned by Meriti Holdings (Pty) Ltd to an account belonging to Teboho Construction, also known as First Choice, held with First National Bank.

Lesotho Post Bank Managing Director, Molefi Leqhaoe, alleged in a letter attached to court papers that Sopeng offered “to sign on the signature verification stamp to verify the authenticity of the customer” after the bank’s consultant refused to process the transfer after she failed to verify the signatures.
Sopeng allegedly said the transfer was urgent.
An aggrieved director of Meriti Holdings, Shen Yao, dragged the bank to court for processing the fraudulent transaction.

Now Sopeng, denying any role in the fraud, has approached the courts seeking that the suspension be reviewed, corrected and set aside.
Sopeng is also asking the court to order the bank to reinstate him to his ordinary duties forthwith.
In a letter he wrote to Leqhaoe and attached to court papers, Sopeng said on January 24 he was called by one Yan Xie saying he had a transfer reference number for a payment he was expecting from the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL).

Xie wanted to find out if the Lesotho Post Bank had received the payment.
Sopeng said he went to the processing department and asked an official there to check for him if the number and amount of M6.9 million had been received.
He said he did not at any time ask the official “to check if the account had been credited and that it should be credited immediately if it had not”.

The official, one ’Maqhobela Majara, checked for him from another desk within the processing department.
Within a matter of minutes, she came back and advised that the money had just reflected on the bank’s system from the CBL, saying “the client’s account will be credited”.
Sopeng said he just thanked Majara and left.
“I have not at any time given an instruction to anyone from another department that I am not responsible for, and will forever not do such,” Sopeng said in the letter.

He said on January 25, Xie sent someone to the bank to deliver a transfer form for Meriti Holdings, signed by Shen Yao, requesting to transfer funds from the company to Teboho Construction’s account held with the FNB.
“I would like to clarify that as per the contents of your letter, it is not true that the consultant informed me that she cannot process the transfer as she cannot verify the customer signature due to lack of supporting documents,” reads the letter.
Sopeng said the consultant instead advised him to take the form from an official he assumed was her supervisor for signature verification, “or I can verify the same if I know the customer”.
“I then said I can verify the signature as I know it, if it’s something allowed, and it was stamped and I duly signed for verification of the signature,” he said.

He said after a short while, Xie called saying he had received an SMS from the Lesotho Post Bank notifying him that M300 had been withdrawn from the Meriting account via an ATM without his knowledge.
“I then replied that the bank would also not be in a position to know since the ATM card is in their custody.”
Sopeng said Xie replied that they did not have any ATM account on that account and asked him to verify.
He said he went to the customer care service to enquire and was asked if the complaining Chinese man was not in a partnership with a Mosotho man.

Upon checking the files, they found that the company was co-owned with a Mosotho man, who Sopeng later discovered was Teboho Mothebesoane.
Sopeng said he was also informed that on January 25 Mothebesoane went to the bank with revised company documents claiming he was now the sole signatory and requested to be issued with an ATM card. The bank acceded to his request.

Sopeng said he photocopied the old and new company extracts and the old resolution letters.
After the controversy, Sopeng said bank officials pondered on what could have happened. In the meantime he advised that the account should be blocked but was told that the authority of the branch manager was needed to block an account. The branch manager was on leave at the time, he said.
He went to the legal division of the bank to seek advice on whether it was possible for one shareholder to change the company ownership structure without the knowledge of their partner.
The answer was yes, he told the court.

He said the legal officer promised to enquire with the Companies Registry of the Ministry of Trade and also advised that perhaps Xie could approach the courts for redress.
Sopeng said Xie made his own investigations and later reported to him that indeed Mothebesoane had forged the signature of his partner, Shen Yao.
He said when Xie asked about the money transfer, he told him that he had submitted it to the relevant department.
“In the role that I played in submitting the transfer from I did not have any particular interest both on a personal and business level,” he said.
“I also would like to categorically state that I also do not have any particular interest in the said transfer/transaction even post its conclusion.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

 

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