October 30, 2002

Heavy Fine in Lesotho Corruption Trial

A R22-million fine was imposed by the Maseru High Court on Acres International, a Canadian firm of engineering consultants, on Monday, Ocotber 21. In a note to his Lesotho counterpart Monyane Moleleki, the South African Water affairs and forestry minister Ronnie Kasrils expressed the hope that the message that 'corruption in Africa will not be tolerated' would now get across loud and clear to the international community.

Acres International is the first international company to be found guilty and fined for the bribery of Mr Masupha Sole, former Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. Mr Sole was sentenced to an effective 18 years in prison for receiving more than1.6 million US Dollars in bribes from international consultants and contractors involved in the construction of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, a joint development of Lesotho and South Africa on water supply. The prosecution of other companies involved in the briberies is already under way.

The Crown has completed its case against Germany's Lahmeyer International GmbH and is awaiting the court's ruling on the company's application for dismissal of the charges. The conviction of Mr Sole and Acres has far-reaching implications for the international construction community, said Mr Kasrils. The use of so-called 'representation agreements' with local companies or individuals to conceal acts of bribery had also been exposed. The court found that the representation agreement was a sham and that the 'representative' merely acted as a conduit for the payment of bribes. (BUANEWS)

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