Thursday, June 4, 2020

Magistrate commits petroleum fund pilfering case to High Court

BY MPHO KELEBOGE

The National Petroleum Fund case will finally be committed to the High Court on the 21 August with more than 100 witnesses lined up to give evidence.

The P230 million case implicates high ranking officials amongst them High Court Judge Zein Kebonang, former Minister of Minerals Sadique Kebonang, business man Bakang Seretse and others.

Some of the Corruption and Economic Crime charges, which form part of the content of the charge sheet of 65 offenses in totality are to be referred to the High Court for trial. They include serious charges of money laundering, abuse of office, and giving false information to a public officer.

Regional Magistrate Masilo Mathaka expressed his disdain at State prosecutions’ abuse of process by giving them another chance to amend the charge sheet for the fifth time.

”On a serious note I’m not going to entertain any of you especially the State behavior of amending the charge sheet for the fifth time, this is totally unacceptable. I’m committing this matter to the High Court as much as I have refused the defense lawyers application to quash out the charge sheet,”Mathaka

In his ruling, Mathaka said in a space of one and half years since the registration of the matter the State has amended the charge sheet five times.

”I’m not sure about the count but of course it has been amended by the State several times and there was an attempt to amend it to about 169 counts which never materialized.”

On the quashing of the charges, the magistrate refused and advised that a ruling will be made on the 21st August committing the matter to the High Court for trial.

”This is not the first time that the court has been moved to quash the charges. A similar application was moved in the past and on the 22nd March 2019 and I delivered a ruling refusing the application. The reasons then are as valid today. It is in the interests of the accused that they stand trial and clear their names and it is in the interest of the society that the matter be taken for trial given its seriousness, ” said Mathaka

The magistrate further said one cannot strictly apply the rules of procedure that are known to be applicable during trial because what is of paramount importance is to ensure that the playing field is level before the matter is committed for trial.

He then made a ruling that supplementary documents be admitted to help achieve the justice system.

The accused are represented by Kgosietsile Ngakaage and Unoda Mack while the State is represented by Wasson Manchwe and Ernest Mosate.

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